A simple command allows the CIA to commandeer 318 models of Cisco switches

Dan Goodin at Ars Technica gives an overview of the implications of the recently exposed telnet vulnerability disclosed by WikiLeaks. I’m not surprised the CIA had something like that, however morally dubious I may find it. As an intelligence organization it’s in their interest to have this kind of access.

For me, this goes beyond Cisco. There’s basically no workaround, if you can’t disable telnet, there’s no way to fully protect yourself from the vulnerability. Cisco pledged to get a fix out soon, but that doesn’t do a lot of good now. But this portends the potential minefield of security issues we’ll see in the Internet of Things.

Cisco is a giant company with a heavy financial interest to get this patched with all of their engineering talent. Yet even with all their resources, it’s still taking time and was left open for a long time. Now image the raft of connected devices from various distributors. While these represent smaller targets for state or otherwise malicious actors, the odds are that they will be even harder to detect and patch, especially if vendors have no financial stake in doing so.

Ars Technica comments:

Cisco Systems said that more than 300 models of switches it sells contain a critical vulnerability that allows the CIA to use a simple command to remotely execute malicious code that takes full control of the devices. There currently is no fix.


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About the author

Rich Stroffolino

Rich has been a tech enthusiast since he first used the speech simulator on a Magnavox Odyssey². Current areas of interest include ZFS, the false hopes of memristors, and the oral history of Transmeta.

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