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i-Sprint’s Insights on ‘How to Avoid Heartbleed or Similar SSL Related Vulnerabilities’

i-Sprint Innovations (“i-Sprint”), a leading Identity, Credential and Access Management Solutions provider across Asia Pacific, provides insights on the latest disclosure of Heartbleed, an OpenSSL encryption bug, and how to avoid it and other similar SSL related vulnerabilities.

The emergence of the Heartbleed bug is yet another reminder of the security threats we continue to face. The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. This compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names, passwords of the users and the actual content. This allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from the services and users and impersonate them.

This bug has resided in production software for more than two years and is described as "catastrophic" by leading security experts. The immediate solution is to identify affected systems, apply the fix and update the SSL certificates. Users also need to be informed to change their passwords and track misuse of the exposed information.

Even if the bug is patched today, there is no guarantee that a similar type of bug will not resurface or stay hidden in software undiscovered. Such vulnerability with similar impact could arise in the future from another SSL library or application product.

It also leads to the question of whether Secure Socket Layer (SSL) is sufficient to protect data confidentiality and the integrity of online transactions. How can enterprises manage the risk of data leakages in future through web services and convince their customers that their data is safe from eavesdroppers? Would it have been possible to have done something to mitigate the risk of such an event?

To prevent exposure of sensitive data even if SSL encryption is broken, enterprises need a strong data protection solution such as End-to-End Encryption (E2EE) to protect passwords and sensitive transaction of data. E2EE ensures that sensitive data stays encrypted even within the memory of vulnerable web or application servers. It offers protection to the Heartbleed type of bug as well as prevents insiders such as software developers or DBAs from leaking sensitive data accidentally or deliberately. In fact, both Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) have mandated financial institutions to adopt E2EE for protection of passwords as well as critical transaction data in the e-banking sites.

Like many financial institutions, organizations should adopt the same best practices to encrypt and send encrypted passwords and sensitive data over a communication channel in addition to the SSL protection. This can be done by using an encryption library and key data for data encryption at the point of entry (user desktop/smartphone) before submission to the server side. This data remains encrypted all the way to the web server and even the application server. The data may be decrypted at the application server, however in the case of passwords, they remain encrypted and are verified inside a Hardware Security Module (HSM). HSMs are cryptographic devices using tamper resistant hardware built to meet the FIPS standards. Thus, the passwords are encrypted from the point of entry to the point of comparison. Apart from mitigating against Heartbleed type of vulnerabilities, this ensures that nobody in the intranet has access to the password in clear during transit and storage, as well as protecting against internal fraud.

In summary, effective data protection requires a combination of layered security solutions and the right processes. Instead of relying only on SSL protection, organizations should look into implementing E2EE solutions at the application layer to protect their confidential information against the next web server vulnerability.

For questions on Heartbleed or how to be protected against it, please visit www.i-sprint.com or contact i-Sprint at enquiry@i-sprint.com.

i-Sprint’s Solutions

i-Sprint has its own unique brand of security products, intellectual properties and patents that are designed to exceed global financial services regulatory requirements. In order to capitalize the fast growing Identity, Credential and Access Management (ICAM) market, i-Sprint proactively delivers innovative product features via our product offerings in Identity Protection, Cloud Protection, Mobile Protection and Data Protection.

i-Sprint’s world leading security solutions include a proven and secure E2EE Authentication and Data Protection for convenient (Single Sign-On) and secure access to internet banking applications. i-Sprint’s solutions meets Internet Banking Security Guidelines from regulatory agencies in multiple countries; overcoming the security challenges of most internet and mobile banking solutions. i-Sprint delivers bank-grade versatile strong authentication (biometrics, multi-factor authentication and more) and token management platform to secure multiple application delivery environments (web, mobile and cloud) based on a common security platform.

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