Juniper Patches Firewall Backdoor Risk

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Juniper Issues Emergency Advisory After Rogue Backdoor Code Discovered.

Juniper, a major manufacturer of networking equipment, said on Thursday it found spying code planted in certain models of its firewalls, an alarming discovery that echoes of state-sponsored tampering.

Networking vendor Juniper reported on Dec. 17 that it discovered multiple security issues in its ScreenOS network security operating system, including backdoor access code. “During a recent internal code review, Juniper discovered unauthorized code in ScreenOS that could allow a knowledgeable attacker who can monitor VPN [virtual private network] traffic to decrypt that traffic,” Juniper wrote in a statement emailed to eWEEK. “Once we identified these vulnerabilities, we launched an investigation and worked to develop and issue patched releases for the impacted devices.” Juniper also noted in its statement that the company has already reached out to affected customers, strongly recommending that they update their systems and apply the patched releases with the highest priority.That’s the question everyone’s asking after the company disclosed that someone inserted code into the operating system of its Netscreen firewall and virtual private network products that would give an attacker the ability to capture and decrypt connections that are supposed to be secure. The affected products are those running ScreenOS, one of Juniper’s operating systems that runs on a range of appliances that act as firewalls and enable VPNs.

For Juniper customers that may be impacted by the ScreenOS issue, Tod Beardsley, security research manager at Rapid7, recommends that, in addition to updating the firmware immediately, organizations also change passwords and investigate their own networks for potential compromises. The backdoor issue is identified as CVE-2015-7755 and, according to Juniper’s advisory, exploitation of the vulnerability can lead to complete compromise of a system. “Upon exploitation of this vulnerability, the log file would contain an entry that system had logged on, followed by password authentication for a username,” Juniper’s advisory states. Someone, somehow, inserted the renegade code, essentially creating a secret back door into Juniper’s products, a back door that only someone in the know would be able to use.

No other devices running Junos are impacted at this time, and Juniper stated that all NetScreen devices using ScreenOS 6.2.0r15 through 6.2.0r18, and 6.3.0r12 through 6.3.0r20 are affected by these issues and require patching. Security researcher “The Grugq” pointed out that the backdoor had been present since late 2012, and can only be fixed by upgrading to the new software version. VPNs are encrypted connections between a user and another computer and are often used by companies to allow secure remote access to their systems for employees who are traveling. The purpose of network security devices such as firewalls is to defend the perimeter of a network from attack and to permit the secure traversal of data with VPN connections. The compromise of such a prominent vendor with code specifically designed for spying echoes operations by the NSA described in documents leaked in 2013 by former contractor Edward Snowden.

ScreenOS 6.2.0r15 was first made available in September 2012, meaning that potentially an enterprise might have been exposed to the risk for three years. Perhaps coincidentally, documents publicly posted December 2013 in Der Spiegel, from National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, list Juniper’s firewalls as devices that can be infiltrated.

If they don’t know who this was then they have lost control of the integrity of their OS.” Wysopal’s observation pretty much gets to the heart of the matter. If Juniper doesn’t have a record of who changed its code, then how can it know that its code isn’t being changed by unauthorized parties all the time? The company says in its disclosure that four versions of ScreenOS are affected and require updates with patched versions of the software issued yesterday. It’s described in a catalog of devices and software used by an NSA division called ANT as a “persistence technique for two software implants … used against Juniper Netscreen Firewalls.” Juniper’s disclosures describe two bits of inserted code.

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