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Security glitch with SETI@home screensaver

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Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Dutch security researchers have discovered a set of security vulnerabilities with the popular SETI@home program.

Various versions of the screensaver, which helps in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence by analysing data captured by the world's largest radio telescope, is vulnerable to Information leakage and remotely exploitable buffer overflow flaw risks.

Clients on all platforms are subject to information leakage (the bug reveals the processor type and OS of a user when work units are downloaded) and a buffer overflow vulnerability. The main SETI@home server at shserver2.ssl.berkeley.edu "has been confirmed" as vulnerable to denial of service attack through a similar buffer overflow flaw.

Berend-Jan Wever, who discovered the vulnerability, explains that malicious attacks based on the vulnerabilities are far from trivial.

"An attacker would have to reroute the connection the client tries to make to the SETI@home webserver to a machine he or she controls," he writes in an advisory.

The SETI@home team said that "to our knowledge, no SETI@home client has ever been attacked in this manner".

Nonetheless the issue has prompted the creation of version 3.08 of the screensaver, described as a "precautionary security release".

There are currently over four million registered users of SETI@home, more than half a million of whom have returned at least one result within the last four weeks. ®

External Links

Information leakage and remotely exploitable buffer overflow in various SETI@home clients
SETI@home

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Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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