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ISS Advisory: OpenSSH Remote Challenge Vulnerability
From: X-Force <xforce () iss net>
Date: Wed, 26 Jun 2002 09:56:07 -0400 (EDT)
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Internet Security Systems Security Advisory
June 26, 2002
OpenSSH Remote Challenge Vulnerability
ISS X-Force has discovered a serious vulnerability in the default
installation of OpenSSH on the OpenBSD operating system. OpenSSH is a
free version of the SSH (Secure Shell) communications suite and is used
as a secure replacement for protocols such as Telnet, Rlogin, Rsh, and
Ftp. OpenSSH employs end-to-end encryption (including all passwords) and
is resistant to network monitoring, eavesdropping, and connection
hijacking attacks. X-Force is aware of active exploit development for
OpenBSD, FreeBSD-Current, and other OpenSSH implementations may be
vulnerable to a remote, superuser compromise.
OpenSSH version 3.3 implements "privilege separation" which mitigates
the risk of a superuser compromise. Prior to the release of this
advisory, ISS and OpenBSD encouraged all OpenSSH users to upgrade to
version 3.3. Versions of FreeBSD-Current built between March 18, 2002
and June 23, 2002 are vulnerable to remote superuser compromise.
Privilege separation was implemented in FreeBSD-Current on June 23,
Note: OpenSSH is included in many operating system distributions,
networking equipment, and security appliances. Refer to the following
address for information about vendors that implement OpenSSH:
A vulnerability exists within the "challenge-response" authentication
mechanism in the OpenSSH daemon (sshd). This mechanism, part of the SSH2
protocol, verifies a user's identity by generating a challenge and
forcing the user to supply a number of responses. It is possible for a
remote attacker to send a specially-crafted reply that triggers an
overflow. This can result in a remote denial of service attack on the
OpenSSH daemon or a complete remote compromise. The OpenSSH daemon runs
with superuser privilege, so remote attackers can gain superuser access
by exploiting this vulnerability.
OpenSSH supports the SKEY and BSD_AUTH authentication options. These are
compile-time options. At least one of these options must be enabled
before the OpenSSH binaries are compiled for the vulnerable condition to
be present. OpenBSD 3.0 and later is distributed with BSD_AUTH enabled.
The SKEY and BSD_AUTH options are not enabled by default in many
distributions. However, if these options are explicitly enabled, that
build of OpenSSH may be vulnerable.
Internet Scanner X-Press Update 6.13 includes a check, OpenSshRunning,
to detect potentially vulnerable installations of OpenSSH. XPU 6.13 is
available from the ISS Download Center at: http://www.iss.net/download.
For questions about downloading and installing this XPU, email
support () iss net
ISS X-Force recommends that system administrators disable unused OpenSSH
authentication mechanisms. Administrators can remove this vulnerability
by disabling the Challenge-Response authentication parameter within the
OpenSSH daemon configuration file. This filename and path is typically:
/etc/ssh/sshd_config. To disable this parameter, locate the
corresponding line and change it to the line below:
The "sshd" process must be restarted for this change to take effect.
This workaround will permanently remove the vulnerability. X-Force
recommends that administrators upgrade to OpenSSH version 3.4
immediately. This version implements privilege separation, contains a
patch to block this vulnerability, and contains many additional pro-
active security fixes. Privilege separation was designed to limit
exposure to known and unknown vulnerabilities. Visit
http://www.openssh.com for more information.
ISS X-Force and Black Hat consulting will host a presentation titled,
"Professional Source Code Auditing" at Black Hat Briefings USA 2002. The
presentation will explore advanced source code auditing techniques as
well as secure development best-practices. Please refer to
The vulnerability described in this advisory was discovered and
researched by Mark Dowd of the ISS X-Force. ISS would like to thank Theo
de Raadt of the OpenBSD Project for his assistance with this advisory.
About Internet Security Systems (ISS)
Founded in 1994, Internet Security Systems (ISS) (Nasdaq: ISSX) is a
pioneer and world leader in software and services that protect critical
online resources from an ever-changing spectrum of threats and misuse.
Internet Security Systems is headquartered in Atlanta, GA, with
additional operations throughout the Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe
and the Middle East.
Copyright (c) 2002 Internet Security Systems, Inc. All rights reserved
Permission is hereby granted for the electronic redistribution of this
document. It is not to be edited or altered in any way without the
express written consent of the Internet Security Systems X-Force. If you
wish to reprint the whole or any part of this document in any other
medium excluding electronic media, please email xforce () iss net for
Disclaimer: The information within this paper may change without notice.
Use of this information constitutes acceptance for use in an AS IS
condition. There are NO warranties, implied or otherwise, with regard to
this information or its use. Any use of this information is at the
user's risk. In no event shall the author/distributor (Internet Security
Systems X-Force) be held liable for any damages whatsoever arising out
of or in connection with the use or spread of this information.
X-Force PGP Key available on MIT's PGP key server and PGP.com's key
server, as well as at http://www.iss.net/security_center/sensitive.php
Please send suggestions, updates, and comments to: X-Force
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- ISS Advisory: OpenSSH Remote Challenge Vulnerability X-Force (Jun 26)