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Computer users who could be affected have been urged to obtain operating systems updates from software makers. (Nic MacBean, file photo: ABC News)It is not yet clear exactly how many systems and what type of computers are vulnerable to Shellshock, but researchers say the vulnerability could be worse than the Heartbleed bug that recently put the data of millions of people at risk.”If you just take the number of websites there are, last week we passed the billion mark, there are now over a billion active websites on the internet. And over 50 per cent of those 500 million are running this software,” he told the ABC’s AM program.”Even if only a tiny fraction of those, we could be talking tens of millions of computers that are vulnerable.”He said it could allow hackers to take control of devices.”This bug unfortunately, the upshot of it is it allows people to potentially run their own code or bits of programming remotely on your computer and as the rules say, if somebody can run code on your computer it’s no longer your computer,” he said.Shellshock is essentially a mistake that has been found in a piece of Linux software called Bash that has been widely used for about 25 years.In simple terms, it is a key program that binds together different elements of a computer system.Shellshock discovered ‘on a hunch’I realised I had in my hands something that could allow one to hack into a great number of servers or worse.Stephane Chazelas, the French security researcher who discovered Shellshock “on a hunch”, said he was “awed and frightened” by what he found.”I realised I had in my hands something that could allow one to hack into a great number of servers or worse,” he told the ABC via email.”The problem with this bug is that because many software interact or may interact with Bash, it’s hard to know all the possible ways the vulnerability can be exploited.”And the concern is about internet connected devices that are not easily upgradable that is, not your average major web server.”That’s something security firms and criminals will be working on actively from now on I bet.”‘This is about as bad as it gets’Troy Hunt, a security specialist with Microsoft, said the bug was “very widespread, very easily exploited and it has a significant impact when an attacker has hold of it”.”As such, the threat level has been reported as being as high as it gets by [the National Institute of Standards and Technology] in the US,” he told the ABC via email.This is about as bad as it gets.”The ramifications of an attacker being able to run arbitrary commands on a vulnerable system are severe.

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