Fears concerning the "Heartbleed" computer bug continue as efforts to fix the problem threaten to cause major disruptions in the next several weeks, according to experts quoted in The Washington Post.

 

Estimates of the severity of Heartbleed's damage have grown almost daily since it was discovered last week. Experts now believe that hackers can use the bug to create fake websites that mimic real sites to trick consumers into handing over personal information.

 

The bug makes it possible for a hacker to steal the "security certificates" that verify a website is authentic, which is very difficult and labor intensive, but still possible for skilled hackers. Affected sites should revoke their security certificates and issue new ones, experts say.

 

According to this article in Yahoo! Tech, the bug could affect specific versions of Android smartphones. A version called 4.1.1. Jelly Bean is affected, and Google Inc. has said that fewer than 10 percent of devices are vulnerable.

 

You can see which version your phone is using by going to the settings menu on the phone and finding the "About Phone" section. There's also a free app to tell you if your device is vulnerable.

 

Meanwhile, even before news of the Heartbleed bug, a Pew Research Center study suggests that growing numbers of Americans have had personal information stolen online. A January survey, the results of which were released yesterday, showed that 18 percent of online adults have had important personal information stolen, such as their Social Security or credit card number. That's an increase from 11 percent in July 2013.

 

Also, 21 percent of online adults said that had an email or social networking account compromised, the same amount as July 2013.