DNS security & new BIND releases

Published: 2007-01-28
Last Updated: 2007-01-29 21:14:06 UTC
by Maarten Van Horenbeeck (Version: 1)
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Last Thursday, the Internet Systems Consortium released new versions of the popular BIND DNS server software. The new releases, 9.2.8, 9.3.4 and 9.4.0rc2 contain fixes for two security vulnerabilities that were identified early January.

The first vulnerability, assigned CVE-2007-0494, is only exploitable in those BIND configurations that use DNSSEC validation through the use of trusted-keys. During the validation of responses to type * (ANY) queriesthat returns multiple RRsets certain assertion checks can be triggered (which could cause the daemon to exit). This is still a fairly low impact vulnerability – the SECspider at UCLA only knows of 722 DNSSEC enabled zones on the internet.

In the second vulnerability, assigned CVE-2007-0493, certain requests could cause named, the actual DNS server of the BIND software, to read a freed fetch context. This would cause named to exit, allowing a remote attacker to perform a DoS attack against the server.

The impact of many DNS vulnerabilities can be mitigated by using best practices in the design of a DNS architecture. For example, disabling the ability of external users to run recursive lookups against your servers can simultaneously limit the scope of the above vulnerabilities, increase performance for legitimate users and prevent your servers from being used in an amplification denial-of-service attack. Nevertheless, measurements by the Measurement Factory show that as recently as August 2006, 52% of all DNS servers on the internet still allowed recursion by clients outside of their administrative domain.

Even though these specific vulnerabilities are ranked as low impact, if there’s one security improvement you consider this week, make it a thorough check of your public DNS servers – do they allow functionality that isn’t required, such as open recursion? The NIST has an excellent document on implementing secure DNS, and Team Cymru's Secure BIND template can prove most useful.

The Center for Internet Security www.cisecurity.org has a template available as well.


Maarten Van Horenbeeck

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Fixing the broken hashes

Published: 2007-01-28
Last Updated: 2007-01-28 20:08:12 UTC
by Maarten Van Horenbeeck (Version: 2)
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One media source reported earlier this week of a ‘breakthrough finding’ in attacks on SHA1. Some readers wrote us quoting the article, asking what was up. The article in fact referred to a well-known finding in early February 2005, when a Chinese research team announced they had found ways to identify collisions in a much faster way than purely through brute force attack.

As SHA1 generates 160 bits of output, there are 2160 potential output values. Due to the birthday paradox, brute force attacks against SHA1 would as such have taken 280 iterations to find a collision – two messages with an identical hash value. Technically this attack would be difficult to achieve on current hardware.

The 2005 findings by Xiaoyun Wang and her research team decreased this to 269 hash operations. As this is purely a collision attack, its use as an attack strategy is limited to certain situations in which system designers require strong collision resistance.

There are already certain hash functions that are not affected by these recent attacks. NESSIE, a European Commission research project identified a number of recommended hash functions. These included Whirlpool, as well as the SHA-based functions SHA-256, SHA-384 and SHA-512. The project reported negatively on SHA1 due to its short output length of 160 bits. In March of 2006, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) started advising against the use of SHA-1 for implementations that require collision resistance and suggested some of those same alternatives.

This week, NIST released a draft minimum requirements list for candidate hash algorithms to replace SHA-1 as the Secure Hash Standard. They are actively soliciting input in order to allow for the organization of a new public competition, similar to that used to select Rijndael as the AES standard.

The advice fellow handler Dan gave back in 2005 still stands:
- know where the affected hash functions are used in your organization;
- identify the cryptographic services they deliver in each instance;
- identify which types of service are affected by new attacks;
- liaise with your vendors and developers to ensure availability of alternatives where necessary;
- closely track standardization efforts to ensure implemented alternatives are peer-reviewed and widely supported.

Maarten Van Horenbeeck

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