by: Tenikka Smith Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Tech experts are being flooded with calls from people and businesses concerned about Heartbleed, a software vulnerability impacting countless websites leaving millions of usernames and passwords exposed.
"Eighty percent of all websites on the Internet period were affected by this vulnerability," ethical hacker Gregory Richardson said.
Heartbleed affects Open SSL technology, which is used to encrypt sensitive data like passwords, financial information and emails.
Sites that use technology are often indicated by the padlock icon or links beginning with "https.”
Despite some of the information floating around, Richardson said Heartbleed is not a virus or bug that affects equipment like your phones or computers but instead, it impacts the sites you connect to on the Internet.
Some major websites affected include Instagram, Pinterest, Google, Yahoo and Netflix .
"There is a huge possibility that your username and password was viewable by people out in the public," Richardson said.
Richardson said here's what Internet users need to do right now:
1. Go to the sites that you use to see if they've been affected by Heartbleed. You can check out a list of some major websites here: <http://mashable.Com/2014/04/09/heartbleed-bug-websites-affected/
2. Check to see if those sites have made any kind of emergency fixes for this vulnerability. If they have not, Richardson said that you should hold off and do not immediately change your passwords.
3. If the site has made a fix, Richarson said you should change your username and password. He also advised that you should make sure the password is something strong and unique.
Richardson said you should also create a different user name and password for every individual site that you visit.
Since Heartbleed went undetected for at least two years, Richardson said your best bet is to assume your passwords have been exposed and take steps to protect yourself moving forward.