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iPlanet security flaws unmasked

More annoying than serious

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Security for virtualized datacentres

A pair of vulnerabilities on widely-used Web server software from iPlanet has been uncovered.

In the more serious case Netscape Enterprise Server 3.x and iPlanet Web Server 4.x, running on the Windows operating system, can be subjected to a denial of service attack. Hackers would need only to enter a simple browser command in order to cause a vulnerable server to crash.

For the technique to work Web publishing needs to be enabled but since this is fairly common the problem is quiet serious for those that running versions of the affected software on an NT platform. An estimated 30 per cent of Netscape and iPlanet Web servers run on NT.

An advisory explaining the steps to take to fix the problem, which involves disabling the ?wp-html-rend command, can be found here.

The second vulnerability, which affects wider varieties of Netscape Enterprise Server and iPlanet Web Server, could allow an attacker to make repeated authentication attempts if a server is configured to use HTTP basic authentication.

This is not a severe weakness, because other security mechanisms (such as using client certificates) should be in place. However it may allow attackers to perform brute force password cracking on a site which has no authentication pages and, as such, represents an unexpected avenue of attack.

This bug affects Netscape Enterprise Server 2.x and 3.x as well as iPlanet Web Server 4.x and 6.x on Solaris, AIX, Digital Unix, HP-UX, IRIX, SunOS, Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Linux.

The vulnerability represents a security configuration and iPlanet has produced an advisory detailing the steps admins can take here.

Security firm ProCheckUp, which discovered both bugs, say the bugs collectively affect iPlanet Web servers commonly used in e-commerce or banking sites. But they are less serious than recent flaws uncovered in Microsoft IIS.

"These [iPlanet bugs] are not root level exploits so they are not nearly as bad as Microsoft bugs, which have resulted in the exposure of credit card details," said Richard Brain, ProCheckUp's technical director.

"At worst you could temporarily shut down a Web site with these bugs. It's more an annoyance factor than anything," he added. ®

External links

DoS risk for iPlanet (CERT note)
CERT note on brute force attack vulnerability
Advisory by ProCheckUp

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