Well, this is comforting:
The National Security Agency knew for at least two years about a flaw in the way that many websites send sensitive information, now dubbed the Heartbleed bug, and regularly used it to gather critical intelligence, two people familiar with the matter said.
The NSA’s decision to keep the bug secret in pursuit of national security interests threatens to renew the rancorous debate over the role of the government’s top computer experts.
Heartbleed appears to be one of the biggest glitches in the Internet’s history, a flaw in the basic security of as many as two-thirds of the world’s websites. Its discovery and the creation of a fix by researchers five days ago prompted consumers to change their passwords, the Canadian government to suspend electronic tax filing and computer companies including Cisco Systems Inc. to Juniper Networks Inc. to provide patches for their systems.
Putting the Heartbleed bug in its arsenal, the NSA was able to obtain passwords and other basic data that are the building blocks of the sophisticated hacking operations at the core of its mission, but at a cost. Millions of ordinary users were left vulnerable to attack from other nations’ intelligence arms and criminal hackers.
Currently, the NSA has a trove of thousands of such vulnerabilities that can be used to breach some of the world’s most sensitive computers, according to a person briefed on the matter. Intelligence chiefs have said the country’s ability to spot terrorist threats and understand the intent of hostile leaders would be vastly diminished if their use were prohibited.
I had thought the purpose of the NSA, like other security organizations, was to protect the citizens of the US.
But it’s not:
The NSA/CSS core missions are to protect U.S. national security systems and to produce foreign signals intelligence information.
Given that they specifically do not inform anyone about bugs they find even though that makes cybercrimes more likely, I guess they really don’t think protecting US citizens is part of their job.
Update: The NSA denies that they knew about Heartbleed.