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Filesharers spread Allied Telesis networking 'backdoor' info

No need for alarm over password-recovery feature, says networking firm

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Updated "Backdoor passwords" for a range of Allied Telesis networking devices have been leaked online.

Allied Telesis said that although the leaked document referred to a "backdoor password" (screenshot via H Security here), this was an unfortunate choice of phrase for what was actually a password-recovery feature of the type most manufacturers build into their kit. It added that the login credentials would in any case only work given physical access to its networking equipment, so the approach wouldn't lend itself to remote hacking.

Sometimes other security vulnerabilities mean functions that ought only to work locally can be carried out remotely, of course. There's no evidence that this has happened in this particular case, but even so, making security-related documents that are meant to be restricted openly available is seldom a good idea. For example, a hard-coded back door in industrial control systems from Siemens facilitated the infamous Stuxnet worm. Built-in backdoor function can sometimes be put in by developers as a debugging tool and left in by mistake when code is released from development.

Allied Telesis maintained the password recovery feature as a way to regain control of networks when login credentials had been lost or (perhaps) in cases where legitimate owners had been locked out of their own network by rogue administrators. The documents detailing how to look up the relevant passwords were meant to be accessible only internally and were intended to be released only to properly authorised users who were able to complete a series of security checks. Customers were obliged to supply a MAC address, hardware serial number and, where possible, proof of purchase, before passwords could be released, according to documents obtained by Kaspersky Labs' Threat Post.

In a memo sent to customer on Wednesday (1 June), Allied Telesis said that the whole incident had been blown out of proportion.

Allied Telesis does not provide “backdoor passwords” for any of its products, and the feature referenced is actually an industry-standard password recovery tool similar to that used by technical support staff in technology companies globally. The utility referenced applies to an older version of our network operating system that is still supported but no longer available. Newer-generation Allied Telesis products are unaffected by this issue.

Having access to this information alone does not enable anyone to log into any devices. A person using this tool would need to be physically present inside a secure data center, would need to know the MAC address and serial number of that device and would need to be physically plugged into the “console port.” The tool merely resets a password back to its “factory default.” Changes in IT personnel, purchase of used equipment and lack of documentation are a few of the common reasons why our customers call technical support to reset passwords. For those customers, having the ability to re-enable a device is essential to ensure they can access and manage Allied Telesis products as part of their network solutions.

At Allied Telesis, information technology security is treated very seriously, and we take great care in protecting the integrity of our products. The public availability of this page appears to have resulted from an error in our third-party knowledgebase management software. The phrase “backdoor password” in the document title was caught as a keyword by an internet search engine. This caused a document intended for internal training use to appear as though it had intentionally been published in the public domain, which was not the case. We immediately removed it from our knowledgebase software and are working to ensure it is not repeated. Our staff is also being trained in the proper choice of words for labeling training documents.

An Excel spreadsheet which explained in detail how to generate alternative passwords for 20 different networking devices made by Allied Telesis, were inadvertently published on a public-facing website and not a closed private intranet. The file was indexed by Google and therefore made available to world + dog. News of the availability of the documents broke last week, shortly before the potential sensitive documents as well as a password-generator tool for Allied Telesis became available through filesharing sites.

Allied Telesis is reportedly working on removing the leaked documents from the filesharing sites, Help Net Security adds. ®

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