WASHINGTON - The White House and US intelligence agencies said on Friday neither the National Security Agency nor any other part of the government were aware before this month of the "Heartbleed" bug, denying a report that the spy agency exploited the glitch in widely used Web encryption technology to gather intelligence.
The White House, the NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued statements after Bloomberg reported that the NSA was aware of the bug for at least two years and exploited it in order to obtain passwords and other basic information used in hacking operations. The Bloomberg report cited two unnamed sources it said were familiar with the matter.
The Heartbleed bug is considered one of the most serious Internet security flaws to be uncovered in recent years. "Reports that NSA or any other part of the government were aware of the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability before April 2014 are wrong," White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.
"This administration takes seriously its responsibility to help maintain an open, interoperable, secure and reliable Internet," Hayden added.
Bloomberg was not immediately available to comment.
The discovery of Heartbleed by researchers with Google Inc and a small security firm, Codenomicon, prompted the US Homeland Security Department to advise businesses on Tuesday to review their servers to see if they were using vulnerable versions of widely used software known as OpenSSL.
OpenSSL is used to encrypt email and other communications and to protect the websites of big Internet companies, including Facebook Inc, Google Inc and Yahoo Inc. The bug, disclosed Monday, allows hackers to steal data without a trace.
NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said in a separate statement:"NSA was not aware of the recently identified vulnerability in OpenSSL, the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability, until it was made public in a private-sector cybersecurity report." Hayden said the federal government relies on OpenSSL to protect the privacy of users of government websites and other online services.