It is a question that all privacy and freedom of information advocates are demanding to know: did the National Security Agency know about the Heartbleed Bug that has infected websites and potentially stolen passwords, financial and private information?
On top of that, the NSA is being accused of using the web bug as a means of garnering even greater personal data from users. All of this, of course, the NSA denies vehemently.
Bloomberg has reported that the NSA, in fact, knew about the existence of the flaw in websites for at least two years and had been using the bug as a means of gathering information and intelligence about people. Although the news report did not cite their sources, saying "two people familiar with the matter said," it has sparked a litany of online questions over the role of the NSA once again in private lives of citizens.
Responding to that report, the NSA categorically denied knowing about the online bug before it was announced recently to the public, again urging citizens to change their passwords and protect themselves from potential trolls.
The NSA kept its understanding and awareness of the Heartbleed Bug a secret in order to pursue further "national security interests" using the information that could be gathered from the bug. While this new information has done little to shock the public -- especially after the NSA has come under fire for its surveillance program, which was first brought to light by whistleblower Edward Snowden -- it does open a potentially dangerous chapter that many are saying could be even more sinister than the tapping of phones.
The NSA has lashed out against Bloomberg, saying the report is false.
"The federal government relies on OpenSSL to protect the privacy of users of government websites and other online services. This administration takes seriously its responsibility to help maintain an open, interoperable, secure and reliable Internet. If the federal government, including the intelligence community, had discovered this vulnerability prior to last week, it would have been disclosed to the community responsible for OpenSSL," it said in a statement.
As security firms attempt to combat the issues surrounding online security and privacy, the NSA has found itself again facing controversy over its alleged involvement in illegal information gathering of private citizens. For now, the public relations battle is in full swing, but more information is likely to come out on the Heartbleed Bug in the coming days and weeks, which could shed further light on its overall impact on Internet users in the United States and abroad.