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Furor over Cisco IOS router exploit erupts at Black Hat

Cisco and ISS filed lawsuits against Michael Lynn and the Black Hat conference

By Ellen Messmer
July 28, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Network World - The decision by Internet Security Systems Inc. (ISS) research analyst Michael Lynn to speak at this week's Black Hat USA conference about how unpatched Cisco routers can be remotely compromised has ignited a spate of lawsuits against Lynn and the conference.
Although Cisco Systems Inc. and ISS abruptly canceled Lynn's planned technical talk and demo, the researcher went ahead with the talk anyway (see ISS researcher quits job to detail Cisco flaws). Lynn, who originally uncovered the problem, was asked to resign after his presentation but said he felt compelled to reveal the information. "I felt I had to do what's right for the country and the national infrastructure," he said.
Cisco and ISS, claiming it was premature to release the research, saw it differently and immediately filed a lawsuit to stop him from discussing the subject further. The Black Hat Conference was also served with a lawsuit by the two companies for allowing Lynn to discuss the exploits.
Black Hat CEO Jeff Moss yesterday said he felt trapped in the middle. "Michael Lynn said he was going to discuss VoIP," said Moss. "I can't control a speaker who changes his topic in the middle of a presentation."
Told by ISS not to discuss the router exploit, Lynn began his presentation at Black Hat yesterday with a substitute presentation on voice over IP. But boos from the audience -- which had come for his original topic, "The Holy Grail: Cisco IOS Shellcode and Remote Execution" -- prompted him to talk about how an attacker can take control of a Cisco router through a variety of buffer overflow attacks and shellcode exploits.
While such an attack is common against unpatched servers -- several destructive Internet worms in past years have used buffer overflow attacks to take over Microsoft-based servers -- this is believed to be the first demonstration of a buffer overflow attack against Cisco routers.
Lynn did not publicly offer the specific code to carry out the attack -- which he said could be accomplished in several ways on unpatched Cisco routers -- but he provided evidence it could be done. Lynn said he got some of his insights by reading information posted on Chinese hacker sites.
ISS just last week stated that it had intended to provide a "first" in this security area, but by Monday, discussions with Cisco -- which had been expected to participate in the Black Hat presentation -- ended up with the two firms abruptly canceling the talk on Monday.
In addition, Cisco warned Black Hat organizers that if they did not remove

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2012 Network World, Inc. All rights reserved.
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