Heartbleed is a security flaw in OpenSSL, which is the system used to ensure the security of nearly half the websites on the Internet. The flaw gives hackers the ability to gain the security keys that keep the information passing between your Web browser and online servers encrypted, which could let them decrypt information you're expecting to remain secure -- including user names, passwords, and credit card numbers -- and even pose as legit servers. That sounds pretty ominous, so we sorted out what that means for you.
Heartbleed potentially exposes server encryption keys
What is Heartbleed?
Heartbleed is a code flaw in OpenSSL's hearbeat function that lets hackers trick a server into handing over its private encryption keys. With those keys in hand, hackers can decrypt information that's passing between servers and user's computers without any detection. They can also potentially use those keys to set up their own man in the middle server that appears as if its a legit version of the site you're trying to reach, and that would let them collect as much information as they want.
Imagine, for example, a hacker getting ahold of the encryption keys for your bank. They could then intercept and decrypt your secure transactions, get your credit card and bank account numbers, account login and password, and more.
Don't have time to read all of the background stuff on OpenSSL and heartbleed, but want to know what to do to protect yourself? Jump ahead, we don't mind.