CERT: Flaws in SNMP could threaten 'Net

Flaws in how SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) is implemented in a raft of products could allow attackers to stage denial of service attacks, take over systems and threaten the Internet, according to a new alert from the federally funded computer security body CERT/CC (Computer Emergency Response Team/Coordination Center).

Information about the vulnerabilities has already begun to surface in attacker communities, CERT/CC said, and administrators should act quickly to apply available patches.

SNMP is a protocol used by many vendors to enable network and systems administrators to remotely monitor and configure any number of network devices, including routers, switches and operating systems, CERT/CC said.

The vulnerabilities were first discovered by the Secure Programming Group of Finland's Oulu University, according to CERT/CC. The team at Oulu found multiple vulnerabilties in the way SNMP version one is implemented in many vendors' products. The vulnerabilities involve the way in which SNMP implementations handle warning and error messages, along with requests, CERT/CC said.

The flaws in the products are particularly serious because "many of the affected products provide key services to the Internet infrastructure. Large-scale outages of these devices could disable significant portions of the global network," CERT/CC said in its alert.

Vendors whose products are affected include Avaya, 3Com, Caldera Systems, Cisco Systems, Compaq Computer, Computer Associates International, Hewlett-Packard, Juniper Networks, Lotus Software Group, Lucent Technologies, Microsoft, Netscape Communications, Nokia, Novell, Silicon Graphics and Sun Microsystems. Different vendors have responded to the vulnerabilties in different ways, with many of them already offering patches, though some have not, according to the alert.

Though some vendors have issued fixes, the challenge to network administrators may still be great, according to CERT/CC's alert. Administrators will need to apply patches and make changes to many different kinds of devices throughout their networks, changes which may not be easy to make, the organization said.

The team from Oulu University has materials to test products for the flaw at http://www.ee.oulu.fi/research/ouspg/protos/testing/c06/snmpv1/0100.html/. A list of affected vendors and the progress of their fixes is available at http://www.cert.org/advisories/CA-2002-03.html#vendors/.

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Sam Costello

Computerworld
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