Heartbleed SSL Bug, DNS and the Perils of a Monoculture


The Heartbleed flaw in OpenSSL highlights a critical vulnerability in the structure of the Internet: lack of diversity in critical software and hardware that run everything.

Use of “free” open source software and commodity hardware enables a lot of applications and services to be delivered inexpensively but also leaves critical infrastructure open to exploitation by a single attack or bug. No system can be resilient if a single point of failure can take it out.  To be resilient the Internet needs redundancy and genetic diversity in its systems.

Cryto libraries are just one example of the genetic software bottleneck. Another is web servers; they are dominated by Apache and Microsoft with a roughly 70% combined market share.

A third example is the DNS. Over 85% of the DNS software in use today is BIND – which historically has disclosed a new critical vulnerability every few months. It is likely there are multiple governments and perhaps terror/crime-that-is-organized that could take it down in several ways.

The DNS knows everything that happens on the Internet  – every web lookup, every email, every phone call and text. Nothing in the cyber world works and nothing is secure without secure, reliable DNS. Yet a critical exploit of BIND would effectively take out the Internet.  No phone, no navigation, no Internet of anything.

What would you do in such a doomsday scenario? Wait for your bank statement by snail mail. Drop by the bank teller line to make a deposit or withdrawal. Pull out those CDs to listen to music. Fax those documents. Keep the Rand McNally map handy. Got a dictionary or encyclopedia?

Maybe civilization goes on but it sure would be a mess until fixed.

The Heartbleed bug is an inconvenience but it serves as a wake up call. If we are serious about reducing our exposure to potential cyber catastrophe we need to diversify critical infrastructure, starting with the DNS. Secure64 does not use BIND or OpenSSL in our DNS products.