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BlackBerry races to release Heartbleed patches

14 April 2014, 14:08

Boston - BlackBerry said it plans to release security updates for messaging software for Android and iOS devices by Friday to address vulnerabilities in programs related to the "Heartbleed" security threat.

Researchers last week warned they uncovered Heartbleed, a bug that targets the OpenSSL software commonly used to keep data secure, potentially allowing hackers to steal massive troves of information without leaving a trace.

Security experts initially told companies to focus on securing vulnerable websites, but have since warned about threats to technology used in data centres and on mobile devices running Google's Android software and Apple's iOS software.

Scott Totzke, BlackBerry senior vice president, said on Sunday that while the bulk of BlackBerry products do not use the vulnerable software, the company does need to update two widely used products: Secure Work Space corporate e-mail and BBM messaging program for Android and iOS.

He said they are vulnerable to attacks by hackers if they gain access to those apps through either Wi-Fi connections or carrier networks.


Still, he said, "the level of risk here is extremely small", because BlackBerry's security technology would make it difficult for a hacker to succeed in gaining data through an attack.

"It's a very complex attack that has to be timed in a very small window," he said, adding that it was safe to continue using those apps before an update is issued.

Google spokesperson Christopher Katsaros declined comment. Officials with Apple could not be reached.

Security experts say that other mobile apps are also likely vulnerable because they use OpenSSL code.

Michael Shaulov, chief executive of Lacoon Mobile Security, said he suspects that apps that compete with BlackBerry in an area known as mobile device management are also susceptible to attack because they, too, typically use OpenSSL code.

He said mobile app developers have time to figure out which products are vulnerable and fix them.

"It will take the hackers a couple of weeks or even a month to move from 'proof of concept' to being able to exploit devices," said Shaulov.

Technology firms and the US government are taking the threat extremely seriously. Federal officials warned banks and other businesses on Friday to be on alert for hackers seeking to steal data exposed by the Heartbleed bug.

Companies including Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, International Business Machines, Intel, Juniper Networks, Oracle and Red Hat have warned customers they may be at risk. Some updates are out, while others, like BlackBerry, are rushing to get them ready.

While there have been no public reports of successful attacks involving the Heartbleed vulnerability, researchers say that it has been around for several years. That means that hackers could have successfully been using it without being caught since attacks do not leave any traces.

- Reuters


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