Am I an Accessory?

I am stuck in an interesting dilemma.

I love my web hosting company, I think the people are great, the tools and support are top notch, and the price is right.  I was, in fact, thinking of upgrading my service with them.

But I cannot ignore the fact that on my particular server, they haven’t updated their openssl libraries in 5 YEARS.   Five.  By my count, they are 20 revisions behind the current library version.

This means that there is a list of exploits as long as my arm that can probably be used against the various sites that I sponsor, including the Pamela Project and OSIS. The big problem is that I’m using a shared Apache infrastructure, and while I can recompile PHP and Curl to use up-to-date libraries, Apache does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to transport-level security, and as far as I know, I cannot affect the modules that load into that shared webserver environment.

Obviously there are actions that I can take to ensure my own security.  I can change web hosters.  I can upgrade to a server where I have access to my own apache configuration.  The standard answer here is that if I don’t like what I’ve got I should leave.

But – what about the folks on my server who don’t even know they are at risk?  Who are running shopping carts and who just assume that they are on a well-patched, secure server?  By silently walking away from an insecure environment, am I in fact aiding and abetting the web hosting company in their terrible security practices?

I have in the past contacted support about updating SSL libraries when various remote holes were found.  I won’t quote their answer because I don’t have the email to back up my recollection, I didn’t think to save them, but the version number speaks for itself:  0.9.7e.  The current version is 0.9.8k.  I’m not a big customer, and I know that by paying more I could become more secure — but must it follow that by paying less I have to be at risk?   I already pay extra per month for SSL support, and also for the unique IP address that is a pre-requisite.  Do I have to get hacked before I have a case?

So I ask you all — for the small number of us who know better — what’s the right way to proceed?  Do I silently act to ensure that I myself am secure, leaving all those other poor uneducated suckers to continue in ignorance and risk?  Do I make a stink?  I doubt I have the clout to cause this very large company to do anything.  Yet, if I don’t, who will?

Update: I received a response to my separately sent inquiry to the security team just now (told you they are responsive):

We run Debian Linux. Debian does not put new upstream releases, even point releases, into a stable distribution. What happens is that only the security fixes are backported into a package in stable. This minimizes the possibility for the stable release to be de-stabilized by new code introduced upstream.
So while the version of libssl0.9.7-sarge5, it should nevertheless incorporate all the security fixes present in 0.9.8k.

So, the good news is that I’m probably safe, and the team is on top of it.  The bad new is that I simply have to trust it is so, I don’t see a way to easily independently verify.

One thought on “Am I an Accessory?

  1. >> So while the version of libssl0.9.7-sarge5, it should nevertheless
    >> incorporate all the security fixes present in 0.9.8k.
    >
    > So, the good news is that I’m probably safe, and the team is on top
    > of it. The bad new is that I simply have to trust it is so, I don’t > see a way to easily independently verify.

    Given that it’s Debian, where all business is done in the open, it is very easy to independently verify things. The sarge release page will tell you that in fact security-updates for sarge have been discontinued over a year ago. Furthermore, you can subscribe to the Debian Security Advisories feed, which shows the most recent update for OpenSSL was this year, and indeed did not include updates for sarge anymore…

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