Blog: The Juniper Backdoor Is A Bigger Problem Than You're Being Told
The discovery of a backdoor in some Juniper Networks devices running ScreenOS is concerning, to say the least. The backdoor was added to the devices' source code, and enabled anybody who knew the magic string to access the devices and take control. There is also a backdoor which enables decryption of VPN traffic. Both issues have been deliberately constructed; they are not mere coding errors.
Juniper has issued software updates which remove the backdoor and users should apply the updates as soon as possible.
But as of late 2015, there are still unanswered questions about this attack:
Additionally, every other networking vendor should be urgently auditing their own code to verify its integrity and issue a statement about their findings. [Update 15/01/2016: Cisco have apparently decided to do this.]
The wider computer industry needs a full explanation so they can learn from this disaster, and act to protect themselves and their users.
The other side of the issue is organisations that use affected devices and discover they are vulnerable. What does this now say about the security of their networks and databases? Simply patching the software does not invalidate any routes an attacker has already created into the network. Organisations will need to audit every firewall rule to ensure they are valid, and may have to assume they have been compromised and take the appropriate emergency actions. They cannot wait until they see signs of compromise.
Furthermore, organisations with vulnerable devices may have to assume their users' passwords have been decoded, databases copied, and customer credit card details snatched. They may need to reset every password, and advise every customer to cancel their credit card.
Ultimately, it may be necessary for some sort of disclosure regime to be created which enables Juniper, the wider computer industry, and corporations using Juniper devices to discuss the problem openly without fear of class action lawsuits by users. Fixing the issue and cleaning up afterwards will be more important than providing yet another feast for lawyers, and this can only be possible if there is frank discussion.
In the meantime, users of all Juniper devices should check each of their devices for the vulnerability by referencing the bulletins, and by manually attempting the exploit.
If a device is found to be vulnerable or listed in the bulletins:
Furthermore, organisations using enterprise-grade networking hardware from other vendors should contact their support representatives and seek assurances about the state of their code. At this point, we don't know if the attack on Juniper was internal or external, so there's no reason to expect, prima facie, that other vendors have not been attacked also, and they won't actually know this until they have checked. All enterprise vendors will need to urgently conduct their own code reviews, including by third-party security experts.
† Note to network administrators. We know it's the holidays. We know you don't want to create an unscheduled outage. We know you want to test firmware in the lab first. Truth bomb: this is your job; it's a crisis; stay up all night if you have to.