It’s the Heartbleed Virus that has been slowly taking over the Internet for years, but only recently has it come to the public eye. If you’re pretty techie or considered the ‘computer nerd’ in your social circle, chances are that you have come across a couple of these previously, but if not, you’re not S.O.L. Even the techiest of nerds aren’t understanding the Heartbleed Virus. It’s floating around the internet as we speak, and even recently got ahold of thousands of Canadian social security numbers and taxes. Is it as dangerous as it sounds, you ask? Let’s find out.

How The Heartbleed Virus Works

Heartbleed openssl bug vector shapeThe virus attacks the OpenSSL of your software which is a piece of security on websites. With OpenSSL, websites are able to provide encrypted information to those who visit their site, which essentially tracks and secures all data such as passwords, usernames, and user’s browsing cookies, so other’s on the site can’t see it.

With the most recent OpenSSL version (1.0.1 launched on April 19th, 2012), there was a little bug that came with it which allows a person (and nasty hackers) to get any information on the memory of a site, without even leaving a footprint. As a result, user names and passwords were taken, as well as credit cards, social security numbers in worst case scenarios. (Sorry, Canada). It was an honest mistake and glitch in the system, but it still doesn’t change the fact that the Heartbleed Virus is happening.

What Can You Do?

Heartbleed bugRun! Just kidding. Since the Heartbleed virus is so specific, fewer servers have been affected than what you may believe. While some have estimated that 60% of all internet serves have the bug, it’s believed to actually be as low as under 17.5%. As soon as the discovery was made, the OpenSSL software quickly patched their 1.0.1. program (Now, 1.0.1.g). It is quite possible that even some who installed the infected version may not have been affected at all.

So, do you need to worry? Sure, but there is no need to panic. First, you should change your passwords, especially for services confirmed as vulnerable (Google and Yahoo). You should also be changing your passwords regularly anyway, so this is no big deal. If you can’t keep tabs on your password changes, use password manager apps.

As a little bit of good news, chances are that even if the virus got ahold of your password, the chances of them matching it up with the abundance of usernames it likely has is near impossible. However, people are still taking this precautions and companies are changing encryption keys so ensure that any new data is not vulnerable.

Other than that, you’re probably okay. Relax. The Heartbleed Virus may not have even gotten your information, and as mentioned, unless they’re a puzzle genius, matching it up with the correct combination is near impossible. Just change your passwords and make them at least 10 characters long, with upper and lower case letters and add in a few numbers.