Routine security testing by a British government agency uncovered three security vulnerabilities recently that could have allowed hackers to disrupt an open-source version of the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Internet protocol.
The flaws were found in the OpenSSL Project's Version 0.9.6j of its SSL software by the National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre, a government agency that works to protect Great Britain from electronic attacks, said Mark Cox, a member of the OpenSSL development team.
Workers with the NISCC found that sending certain malformed data to OpenSSL could crash it, Cox said.
OpenSSL volunteers then did their own testing and found three related flaws that allowed the problem to occur, including two flaws that could allow OpenSSL to crash and another that could potentially be exploitable by a skilled hacker, he said.
"We're kind of erring on the side of caution and saying it was maybe exploitable," Cox said.
OpenSSL is a library of cyptographic routines and algorithms used by programs to accept information on the Internet, Cox said. Most secure Web servers running the Apache Web server use the OpenSSL protocol.
The problem was discovered last month by NISCC and reported to OpenSSL volunteers, who posted a new, patched version of the software on the OpenSSL Web site on Tuesday. Users of OpenSSL can also get the updates from their software vendors, including Red Hat Inc., SUSE Linux AG and MandrakeSoft Inc.