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Debian fixes serious crypto bug

Locksmith overtime for sys admins

Reducing security risks from open source software

Debian has warned of a vulnerability in its cryptographic functions that could leave systems open to attack.

The use of a cryptographically flawed pseudo random number generator in Debian's implementation of OpenSSL meant that potentially predictable keys were generated. Versions of Debian's OpenSSL packages starting with 0.9.8c-1 (released in September 2006) are potentially vulnerable.

Many types of cryptographic keys (including SSH, SSL session keys, OpenVPN and others) generated on affected systems may be weak, so the impact of the bug is potentially far reaching.

Sys admins are advised to generate new cryptographic keys after updating their software, as explained in Debian's advisory. Security notification firm Secunia notes that Debian's OPenSSL update also addresses a potential denial of service risk.

Debian said the flaw arises for a change it alone made in the OpenSSL package, suggesting that Linux distributions not derived from Debian are free from the bug. One Reg reader has traced the flaw back to an attempt to silence a warning from a debugging tool. Another has suggested the bug resides within OpenSSL itself and dates from May 2006, a theory we are currently investigating. ®

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