Ghost in the (Bourne Again) Shell: Fallout of Shellshock far from over

The long, painful rollout of patches to a security flaw in the Bourne Again Shell (bash) has left thousands of systems still vulnerable, and malware based on the vulnerability continues to spread, according to a number of security experts. But even for organizations that have already applied the patch for what has been dubbed the “Shellshock” vulnerability, the cleanup may not be over—and it could be long and expensive.

Soon after the Shellshock bug was publicly disclosed and its initial patch was distributed, weaknesses in the patch itself and additional security vulnerabilities were uncovered by developers dealing with the issue. And within a day of the disclosure, attacks exploiting the vulnerability were found in the wild. Some of those attacks are still trying to spread—and in some cases, they’re using Google searches to help them find potential targets. Successful attacks may have made changes to the targeted systems that would not have been corrected by the application of the patch.

The problem with Shellshock is similar to problems that emerged after the Heartbleed bug and numerous other vulnerabilities—while organizations struggle to understand the disclosures, how they affect their systems, and how to successfully implement patches, others—including security researchers—race to build proof-of-concept attacks based on them to demonstrate exactly how dire they are. And those proofs of concept often get picked up by cybercriminals and others with bad intent before organizations can effectively patch them—using them to exploit systems in ways that are much longer-lasting than the vulnerability du jour.

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