Shellshock: Serious Vulnerability Putting Systems at Risk

September 26th, 2014 - Category - IT Security

shellshockBack in April, news broke of a serious security flaw in Open SSL security called the Heartbleed Bug.

Now a new vulnerability, called Shellshock, has been discovered in a software component known as Bash – which is part of Apple Mac’s operating system and many Linux systems.

Technology security experts have warned that this vulnerability could affect as many as 500 million computers around the world – a thousand times more than were at risk from Heartbleed, making it potentially more serious than the Heartbleed flaw. The Shellshock bug could be used to remotely take control of almost any system using Bash.

The fact that many web servers run using the Apache system (which contains the vulnerable Bash component) makes this flaw particularly serious. The implications of a malicious user taking control of a popular web server could be disastrous from a data security perspective.

An official warning has already been issued to system administrators urging them to apply patches to fix the vulnerability.

Cybersecurity specialists Rapid 7 stated that “anybody with systems using Bash needs to deploy the patch immediately” whilst Kaspersky labs said there was already evidence of hackers using the vulnerability to attack web servers and install malware. Compromised machines and servers can be turned into parts of a botnet in order to scan for more machines that are vulnerable and add them to the botnet’s control. One way that these botnets can disrupt businesses is by bombarding vulnerable servers with junk data to the extent that the servers go down.

Whereas Heartbleed only allowed malicious users to take information from a web server, the Shellshock vulnerability actually allows a user to take control of the system and make changes.

The UK government has issued an alert to agencies and departments giving Shellshock the “highest possible threat ratings.” The threat can be mitigated by ensuring that all vulnerable machines and servers have their version of Bash brought up to date. The patching process is described at StackExchange but a certain level of technical knowledge is needed.

If you are worried about the Shellshock vulnerability – particularly if your business runs a Mac or Linux operating system on its machines or servers – then contact us on 020 7101 0544.

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