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Cisco security flap leaves millions scrambling for help

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The aftermath of a security breach involving Cisco's customer portal has left customers scrambling to get new passwords. Cisco reset passwords to Cisco Connection Online as a precaution following the discovery of a security bug in a Cisco.com search tool that could expose log-ins of registered users.

Users worldwide have been advised to email an automated service to get their passwords reset but some Reg readers who notified us about the glitch report snags in re-establishing a valid log-in. Customer service reps told one Reg reader that the system for issuing new passwords was overloaded because of three million requests worldwide for new passwords. A Cisco spokesman was unable to comment on this figure but confirmed that there was a backlog. "Obviously there have been a large number of requests. We are doing everything we can to speed things up," he said.

Cisco Connection Online is used by Cisco employees, customers and partners worldwide as an information and download resource. End users tap the system to download software images and tools, raise fault tickets and for general support purposes. Network resellers we spoke to tell us they place orders through a distributor rather than directly through the site. Cisco reckons problems for users logging into the site won't interrupt its flow of sales and orders.

"We don’t believe that our e-business processes are affected but will continue to investigate to assess any possible impact," a Cisco spokesman said.

In a statement, Cisco said it has "identified the source of the problem and has taken the necessary steps to correct it". The vulnerability was brought to its attention by a third-party security organisation which Cisco declined to name. Cisco said the incident "does not appear to be due to a weakness in our security products and technologies or with our network infrastructure". An application or implementation fault is the likely cause of the fault but we can't say for sure because Cisco is staying mum on what went wrong.

The security flap comes a week after Cisco controversially slapped a restraining order on a security researcher, Michael Lynn. who gave a talk on weaknesses with the networking giant's core IOS software at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas. Cisco's handling of the incident has irked segments of the digital underground though it would be speculative in the absence of any evidence beyond timing to suggest this had anything to do with Wednesday's portal password flap.

Cisco was the first company to integrate its Web site with an Oracle infrastructure (based on E-Business Suite), creating Cisco Connection Online (CCO), an extranet connecting the giant to its partners and suppliers.®

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