5 Tips to Stay Ahead of OpenSSL Vulnerabilities

Newer OpenSSL vulnerabilities are identified regularly by genuine security researchers or come to light as zero-day vulnerabilities when exploited by threat actors. While patching the bugs and OpenSSL vulnerabilities are important, organizations cannot wait for and rely just on patches to protect their websites. They need to be proactive in identifying and securing these vulnerabilities before attackers can find and exploit them. Read on to know how.

OpenSSL Vulnerabilities: A Deep Dive

What is OpenSSL? 

OpenSSL is a popular, open-source cryptographic library written in C programming language that aids in implementing TLS (Transport Layer Security) and SSL (Secure Socket Layer) protocols. TLS/ SSL protocols are used to maintain the integrity, security, confidentiality, and privacy of data in transit between the server and client. Most internet servers leverage it.

This cryptographic library, maintained by the OpenSSL Project, equips developers with a robust, commercial-grade, full-featured toolkit and other resources. It also provides multiple utility functions such as RSA key generation, information verification, encryption, decryption, debugging certificates, etc.

However, it isn’t an SSL/ TLS certificate per se. Even though certificates (usually self-signed certificates) can be created using the platform for free, OpenSSL certificates aren’t accepted for general use.

What are OpenSSL Vulnerabilities? 

OpenSSL vulnerabilities are typically implementation flaws and misconfigurations/ bugs/ flaws in the OpenSSL program that cause a wide range of TLS attacks. One of the earliest vulnerabilities of this kind is the Heartbleed vulnerability that affects versions 1.0.1 to 1.0.1f (inclusive) and version 1.0.2-beta-1. Even though it was detected in 2014, several organizations continue to have this vulnerability because of their lackadaisical approach to TLS security and not updating their systems to the latest versions.

There have been several other OpenSSL vulnerabilities over the decade. In the past year, Command Injection Vulnerability, Memory Corruption Vulnerability, encryption failures, etc., have been unearthed. These vulnerabilities have enabled attackers to orchestrate remote code execution, eavesdrop, and so on.

How to Stay Ahead of OpenSSL Vulnerabilities? 

OpenSSL vulnerabilities

1. Don’t Miss Updates 

The most important way to stay ahead of these OpenSSL vulnerabilities is to ensure organizations aren’t using old, vulnerable versions of OpenSSL. The OpenSSL Project and platforms/companies using it are continuously updating the program and releasing patches to fix identified vulnerabilities and bugs.

Organizations must ensure that they are installing the patches and updating their servers to the latest versions. This helps prevent many attacks, such as man-in-the-middle attacks, remote code execution, etc., caused by OpenSSL vulnerabilities.

2. Maintain an Inventory 

Organizations must maintain an updated inventory of all systems, servers, and certificates using OpenSSL and the versions used. If they identify any old, outdated versions being used, they must take an instant action to upgrade to the latest versions. Version 3.0.5 is the latest and fixes all OpenSSL vulnerabilities, including the latest memory corruption and other implementation flaws.

3. Rekey, Reissue, and Revoke SSL Certificates Using Vulnerable OpenSSL Versions

In addition to upgrading to the program’s latest version, organizations also need to rekey, reissue and revoke all SSL/ TLS certificates using these legacy, vulnerable versions. All encryption keys need to be revoked, reissued, and changed. The presence of the OpenSSL vulnerabilities may have caused keys to be compromised.

Session keys and cookies must be configured to expire/ time out after stipulated durations, especially where users share login credentials and other sensitive information. Users who may have been compromised or have the potential to be compromised because of these OpenSSL vulnerabilities must be informed and be required to change their passwords.

4. Consider Implementing Perfect Forward Secrecy 

Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) or Forward Secrecy effectively prevents current and future attacks (eavesdropping, phishing, man-in-the-middle attacks, etc.) that may result from the exploitation of OpenSSL vulnerabilities such as Heartbleed.

PFS is the encryption style wherein unique session keys are generated for every individual session. This approach to private key exchanges for sessions ensures that data from past sessions are unaffected when one of the session keys is compromised in a future attack.

RSA, a popular cryptographic protocol, does not offer forward secrecy. This is why RSA key exchanges have been eliminated in TLS 1.3, and ECC protocols are mandated. So, make sure you choose a TLS 1.3 SSL certificate to ensure forward secrecy and greater data security and integrity.

5. Using an Intelligent, Multi-Layered WAF Solution

By leveraging advanced, fully managed security solutions like AppTrana, you can proactively scan for any TLS/ SSL vulnerabilities and secure them instantaneously using virtual patching (until developers release fixes).


Given the popularity and widespread use of the program, several websites are automatically at risk of being breached by threat actors using OpenSSL vulnerabilities. Organizations need to be proactive and stay ahead of these vulnerabilities to ensure the round-the-clock availability and security of their websites.

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