I just updated my debian wheezy server to the newest version of the openssl package which has the heartbleed bug fixed.

I do support SSL on my server, but only with a snakeoil certificate. I was just wondering if there is actually any security concern about updating the snakeoil cert as well or can I just leave it as it is because it is a snakeoil cert anyway?

This question might come from my lacking knowledge about ssl... but thanks in advance for any explanation if I should change my snakeoil cert and if yes, why :)

3 Answers 3


No, you do not need to bother to update them.

It is true that now that heartbleed bug (possibly) has exposed your private key, any third party on network path in between your users and your server ("man in the middle") can see all data as is it was not encrypted.

However, for snakeoil certs, that does not differ much from regular usage case of non-compromised keys, as MITM attack on non-CA certificates is in practice equally trivial. (note that there is a tehnical difference between those two security issues, but in practice they're of the same "weight", so that does not make much difference in real world)

Since you're using snakeoil certs (instead of your own, or some other trusted CA) and so presumably ignore any warnings on such certificates, you should be aware that any data on such SSL connections is really not any more secure than plaintext connection. snakeoild certs are intended only so you technically test the connections before installing real certificate (either signed by your own CA and depending on your PKI - preferable but way more work; or putting trust in some commercial CA, and paying for the less work but lower security)

So in general heartbleed bug has two effects:

  1. allowing random memory read; which is fixed the moment the apply the security update
  2. making you unsure if your CA-signed SSL certs are now (security-wise) as worthless as snakeoil ones (and so have to be regenerated and reissued from trusted source). And if you were using snakeoil in the first place, that is obviously non-issue.
  • 6
    +1 for the "your connection is currently equal to plaintext anyways" part
    – PlasmaHH
    Apr 10, 2014 at 8:58

Well, for starters You SHOULD NOT be using a snakeoil cert.

In order to properly mitigate the heartbleed attack you MUST REVOKE the potentially compromised certificates, which you generally can't do with snakeoil or other self-signed certs.

If you can't afford real Certificate Authority issued certificates (or you're working in a private environment) you should set up your own CA and publish a proper Certificate Revocation List so that you can mitigate compromises like this (as well as lost keys, etc.)
I know it's a lot more work, but it's The Right Way To Do Things.

All that said, Yes - you must replace this certificate and key if you want to ensure the security and integrity of future communications, so now is a good time to either switch to a key issued by a known Certificate Authority, or to establish your own internal CA.

  • 1
    thanks for pointing out about security lack of snakeoil or other self-signed certs!
    – Preexo
    Apr 10, 2014 at 8:58

Assuming that you (or clients, users, etc) have ever passed, or will pass, sensitive information over SSL, yes. Passwords, anything else that you wanted encrypted because you didn't want it in plaintext. Yes.

If you truly don't care if those things are potentially in the wild as plaintext, then don't.

If you do care, don't forget to change your private key before putting on the new certificate.


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