Feeds

Big debate over small packets

Attacking the internet through ICMP vulns

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Fernando Gont is nothing if not tenacious.

Earlier this year, the Argentinian researcher highlighted several attacks that could disrupt network connections using the Internet control message protocol, or ICMP, and proposed four changes to the structure and handling of network-data packets that would essentially eliminate the risk.

However, rather than open up a discussion on the flaws and their fixes, Gont's disclosure marked the start of a months-long debate over whether the vulnerabilities - the general details of which have been known for some time - are serious enough to require fixing. While many researchers have lauded his research, others in the security community have criticized the work on public mailing lists. The few companies that Gont has contacted have not generally cooperated, and very few makers of operating systems and network software have implemented his fixes.

Yet, the researcher is at it again. This week, Gont updated his proposal to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the body that handles technical standards for the Internet, to add more information sought by some researchers.

"Some people say 'this is old stuff,'" said Gont, currently on staff at the Universidad Tecnologica Nacional (National University of Technology) in Argentina. "But they miss a very important point: While these attacks have been known to many people for many years, there have never been proposals on how to deal with them."

The flaws are essentially issues caused by the lack of a requirement in the Internet standards to check ICMP packets for specific, problematic data. By sending enough malformed ICMP packets at a vulnerable server or network router, an attack could shutdown a connection, cause a degradation in network bandwidth, or cause the host to burn processor cycles, Gont said.

The issues affect a large number of networking products and operating systems. While a vulnerability note released by the United States' Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) in April indicates that the lion's share of vendors have not declared if their products are vulnerable, major vendors - such as Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems - have confirmed the security issue affects their systems, according to the vulnerability note.

An analysis of the vulnerabilities by the National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre, United Kingdom's version of US-CERT, contains more information about vulnerable systems.

Cisco addressed the issues in an update to a wide variety of products in April, following Gont's first presentation of the issues at CanSecWest in Vancouver. Cisco confirmed all three attacks but did not comment on their severity.

"We take all research like this very seriously," said Cisco spokesman John Noh.

To Gont, the problems are serious. To others, the potential attacks are too complicated and gain the attacker too little to be much of a threat.

"To some people, any possible avenue of attack is a serious issue," said Mark Allman, co-chair of the TCP Maintenance and Minor Extensions working group at the IETF. "Sometimes we need the paranoid folk's beating of the drum, but often times, these sorts of folks work in the minutia."

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Regin: The super-spyware the security industry has been silent about
NSA fingered as likely source of complex malware family
Why did it take antivirus giants YEARS to drill into super-scary Regin? Symantec responds...
FYI this isn't just going to target Windows, Linux and OS X fans
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
HACKERS can DELETE SURVEILLANCE DVRS remotely – report
Hikvision devices wide open to hacking, claim securobods
'Regin': The 'New Stuxnet' spook-grade SOFTWARE WEAPON described
'A degree of technical competence rarely seen'
Home Office: Fancy flogging us some SECRET SPY GEAR?
If you do, tell NOBODY what it's for or how it works
Syrian Electronic Army in news site 'hack' POP-UP MAYHEM
Gigya redirect exploit blamed for pop-rageous ploy
prev story

Whitepapers

Seattle children’s accelerates Citrix login times by 500% with cross-tier insight
Seattle Children’s is a leading research hospital with a large and growing Citrix XenDesktop deployment. See how they used ExtraHop to accelerate launch times.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Business security measures using SSL
Examines the major types of threats to information security that businesses face today and the techniques for mitigating those threats.