The term “Heartbleed” sounds serious and it is.  Heartbleed is the name of the recently discovered security flaw in the Open SSL encryption security technology that is used by up to 2/3 of websites on the Internet.  An indication that the website you are communicating with uses Open SSL is the presence of the tiny padlock icon next to the website address.  Another indication of the use of Open SSL being used is the letter “s” appearing after the initial “http” at the beginning of a website address.  The padlock and the “s” indicated to people communicating with websites that your communications were encrypted and safe from hackers.  Now we have discovered that this encryption technology had been cracked by attackers as long as two years ago.  This means that your communications online with your bank and retailers may have been compromised.  Many websites that have used the Open SSL encryption technology including Amazon and Facebook have fixed the problem or are working on it.  There are patches available.

TIPS

The first thing that you should do is to change your passwords at websites you have used that utilized the Open SSL encryption because your password may be in the possession of hackers.   However, do not change your password until you have confirmed with the Website that it has patched the security flaw.   Heartbleed is a good reminder to us all that we should change our passwords on a regular basis as well as have different passwords for every website where we use a password so that if one gets hacked, identity thieves would not have the passwords for all of our other accounts.  It doesn’t have to be a difficult task as just adding or changing a letter or two can do the trick if you have a good, complex password with letters both capital and small as well as figures and signs.  Also, again as we all should be doing, monitor all of your accounts regularly for evidence of fraudulent use.

Here is a helpful link you can go to in order to check and see if the websites you go to were among those affected by Heartbleed.  One word of caution, this is not guaranteed by its creator to be 100% accurate: http://filippo.io/Heartbleed/

For people who have websites that use Open SSL, here is a link to the notice from the Department of Homeland Security with the links to rectify the situation.https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/alerts/TA14-098A