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The U.S. government warned banks and other businesses to be on alert for hackers seeking to steal data exposed by the "Heartbleed" bug, as a German programmer took responsibility for the widespread security crisis.

The Department of Homeland Security asked organizations to report any Heartbleed-related attacks, adding that hackers were attempting to exploit the bug in widely used OpenSSL code by scanning targeted networks.

Federal regulators also advised financial institutions to patch and test their systems to make sure they are safe.

OpenSSL is technology used to encrypt communications, including access to email, as well as websites of big Internet companies like Facebook Inc, Google Inc and Yahoo Inc.

The bug, which surfaced Monday, allows hackers to steal data without a trace.


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