The security blogosphere is agog over some recently published vulnerability information describing attacks against the venerable secure sockets layer (SSL) protocol -- you know, the one that almost the entire Internet relies on for securing transactions as they transit the Net. But how does this impact you? Let's try to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Let's start by looking at the vulnerability itself. It is a "man-in-the-middle" (MitM) attack in which an attacker can use an SSL feature called "negotiation" to inject bad stuff into an SSL session. Right, so that's not good news. But the sky isn't exactly falling yet, so we can all remain calm for now. Let's put things into perspective here.
Yes, by all accounts, there seems to be a serious weakness in SSL. As of right now, however, that weakness is known to a relatively small collection of folks who are working to come up with some solutions to the problem. That said, the technical details of the problem have been published, and there's little doubt that attacks will begin to surface over time.
However, in order to use an MitM attack to actually effect damage isn't entirely trivial. The attacker either needs to be on the same local network as the client, or in the network path between the client and the server. By far, the most likely of these scenarios, at least in the near term, is to attack systems on a local network. We have a little bit of leverage there.
For starters, we should be using secure VPNs to connect to trustworthy networks when we're using non-trustworthy ones -- like hotel and coffee shop Wi-Fi hot spots. VPNs are pretty ubiquitous now, even for small businesses.
And I did say that there's a community of people working on solutions to this problem. It would surprise me if we don't start seeing patches to SSL stacks in the near future. At least for the server side of this equation, these solutions should be available in pretty short order. The real challenge will be getting those patches deployed on our production systems, but then we should all have a handle on patch and configuration management, right?
So no, the sky isn't falling. There's a big defect lurking on the horizon, and we all will need to pay attention to it, but at present, we've seen no attacks or even proof-of-concept code released in the wild.