Heartbleed: Teenager charged after Canadian taxpayer hack

Heartbleed arrestA 19-year-old man from London, Ontario, has been charged in connection with a hack against the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) website which leaked 900 social insurance numbers, and caused the website to shut down for four days.

Stephen Arthuro Solis-Reyes was apprehended by the London Police Service and the RCMP’s National Division Integrated Technological Crime Unit in connection with the attack which exploited the serious security vulnerability known as the Heartbleed bug.

Solis-Reyes, who is a student at Western University, had his computer equipment seized by the authorities and a search was conducted at his residence.

He now faces one count of Unauthorized Use of Computer and one count of Mischief in Relation to Data contrary to Sections 342.1(1)(a) and 430(1.1) of the Criminal Code, and is scheduled to appear in court in Ottawa on July 17th.

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Regardless of what precisely happened in this case (which is now a matter for the Canadian legal system), it should go without saying that exploiting vulnerabilities to gain unauthorised access to data and computer systems is unwise at the best at times, and particularly foolhardy if your intended victim belongs to a government or involved critical infrastructure.

The authorities are hardly likely to take an understanding view of that.

If you believe that a website or service is poorly secured, the correct approach is to disclose the vulnerability responsibly and not put innocent people at risk by exposing their data.

By the way, it’s important to note that Solis-Reyes is not being accused of “causing” the Heartbleed bug or – as some poorly informed media will no doubt portray it – of having creating the “Heartbleed virus”.

Heartbleed isn’t a virus. It’s a bug caused by a programmer, and it was introduced into the OpenSSL code accidentally.

Unfortunately the Heartbleed bug can be exploited relatively easily by anyone on the internet, if they know how, to steal information from vulnerable services. Solis-Reyes is simply accused of having exploited the bug, which is something that many many other people have done.

Further reading:

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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