CURL is highly portable and works on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Solaris, BSD variants, other UNIX-derived OSes including those for embedded systems, as well as mobile OSes like iOS, Android, BlackBerry Tablet OS and BlackBerry 10 OS. This makes it very popular among application developers who would rather use an already robust library for data transfer than code their own solution from scratch.
The library is used by a wide range of desktop, Web and mobile applications. According to the cURL developers it's even used in Internet-connected TV sets and Bluray players, in embedded systems and in games. An incomplete list of applications that use libcurl is available on the project's website.
Some applications bundle a copy of the library with their installers while others use the version of the library installed on the operating system. Some Linux distributions come with libcurl installed by default, while others provide it as an optional package.
Because of the many ways and places where libcurl is used, a lot of systems and applications are likely to remain vulnerable to this vulnerability for some time to come, despite a patch being available.
This will especially be the case for those applications that use it statically, meaning that the applications include a copy of the library, Eiram said.
"This is one of the problems in general with software that often includes a lot of third-party components and libraries," Eiram said. "How do these software vendors get informed about vulnerabilities in any components that they bundle, and how quick are they at evaluating if their software is vulnerable and update it?"
"We regularly see products affected by vulnerabilities in their bundled components, which were fixed upstream a long time ago," he said. "An example is the latest http://www.pcworld.com/article/2026654/researcher-upnp-flaws-expose-millions-of-networked-devices-to-remote-attacks.html">UPnP research by Rapid7. Some of the described vulnerabilities were fixed many years ago, yet device vendors are still using old, vulnerable versions of the components."
Eiram believes that if a reliable exploit is released, there will definitely be attacks that will target this vulnerability. "We will at least see random websites trying to exploit this if targets happen -- or are tricked -- to visit it with a vulnerable application," he said.