For a more detailed analysis of this catastrophic bug, see this update, which went live about 18 hours after Ars published this initial post.
Researchers have discovered an extremely critical defect in the cryptographic software library an estimated two-thirds of Web servers use to identify themselves to end users and prevent the eavesdropping of passwords, banking credentials, and other sensitive data.
The warning about the bug in OpenSSL coincided with the release of version 1.0.1g of the open-source program, which is the default cryptographic library used in the Apache and nginx Web server applications, as well as a wide variety of operating systems and e-mail and instant-messaging clients. The bug, which has resided in production versions of OpenSSL for more than two years, could make it possible for people to recover the private encryption key at the heart of the digital certificates used to authenticate Internet servers and to encrypt data traveling between them and end users. Attacks leave no traces in server logs, so there's no way of knowing if the bug has been actively exploited. Still, the risk is extraordinary, given the ability to disclose keys, passwords, and other credentials that could be used in future compromises.