SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

April 22, 2014

A look at what others are saying

Excerpts from newspapers across the region:

We as a nation are more wired than ever. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but it is our reality. We conduct a great deal of business electronically — everything from paying the electric bill, to ordinary banking, to checking our retirement accounts, to submitting our tax returns, to applying for student aid, to buying books and clothing, to renewing our driver’s licenses.

In short, we’re doing everything we can possibly do to say to the average computer hacker, “Please, take my identity. And while you’re at it, please clean out my bank account and cash my tax refund check.”

Case in point is the newest national nightmare, the Heartbleed bug, which affects the OpenSSL software.

OpenSSL is software that encrypts your data when you are doing something like ordering rose bushes online. Under normal conditions, your name and credit card number are protected from view, even by the person who is fulfilling your order. But the Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of systems protected by vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software, compromising the secret keys used to identify the service providers.

If a hacker has the key to a server used by an Internet merchant you are buying from, he has your credit card number and your secure number. And you may never know until you are wiped out, because the hacker can email you with comforting letters, as your merchant.

There are new fixed versions of OpenSSL, and service providers are slowly updating their servers.

Many consumers, however, are already at risk.

Many of us are still using outdated operating systems, which won’t be supported anymore. And, yet, we’re more plugged into the ’Net than at any time in our history, on multiple devices, any one of which could harbor a bug that could cheerfully deliver our identities and financial accounts to criminals who can deconstruct any virtual roadblock placed in their way almost before they can be erected.

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