Serious network security holes surface

Black day for BOFHs

A slew of security vulnerabilities in implementations of SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) may allow unauthorised privileged access, denial-of-service attacks, or cause unstable behaviour, security clearing house CERT has warned.

SNMP is a widely-deployed protocol commonly used to monitor and manage network devices. The scary thing about the alert is that more 47 vendors are listed, most of whom report that their kit is affected by the problem to a greater or lesser extent.

Cisco, Computer Associates, Hewlett-Packard, Juniper, Lucent, Marconi, and Microsoft, to name just a few, have issued patches to correct various SNMP implementation flaws. Others, like Nortel, are still evaluating the issue, though some report that their products are not affected.

For system admins, evaluating what needs to be done is going to be a nightmare. This is a black day for BOFHs and the question has to be asked why such a potentially serious set of problems which, if CERT is to be believed, could threaten the stability of the Internet, haven't come to light earlier.

The vulnerabilities were discovered by the Secure Programming Group of Finland's Oulu University, and involve the way which SNMPv1 agents and managers handle requests and trap messages, according to CERT.

Filtering SNMP services and other measures have been suggested as a workaround, and a careful review of the patches available has been urged.

To that we'd add the advice, don't panic. We're at the early stage of what may be a serious infrastructure problem, or an alarmist alert, and it's too early to say which yet -- but not to soon to bring it to people's attention. ®

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