Juniper has warned about a malicious back door in its firewalls that automatically decrypts VPN traffic. It’s been there for years.
Hopefully details are forthcoming, but the folks at Hacker News have pointed to this page about Juniper’s use of the DUAL_EC_DBRG random number generator. For those who don’t immediately recognize that name, it’s the pseudo-random-number generator that was backdoored by the NSA. Basically, the PRNG uses two secret parameters to create a public parameter, and anyone who knows those secret parameters can predict the output. In the standard, the NSA chose those parameters. Juniper doesn’t use those tainted parameters. Instead:
ScreenOS does make use of the Dual_EC_DRBG standard, but is designed to not use Dual_EC_DRBG as its primary random number generator. ScreenOS uses it in a way that should not be vulnerable to the possible issue that has been brought to light. Instead of using the NIST recommended curve points it uses self-generated basis points and then takes the output as an input to FIPS/ANSI X.9.31 PRNG, which is the random number generator used in ScreenOS cryptographic operations.
This means that all anyone has to do to break the PRNG is to hack into the firewall and copy or modify those “self-generated basis points.”
Here’s a good summary of what we know. The conclusion:
Again, assuming this hypothesis is correct then, if it wasn’t the NSA who did this, we have a case where a US government backdoor effort (Dual-EC) laid the groundwork for someone else to attack US interests. Certainly this attack would be a lot easier given the presence of a backdoor-friendly RNG already in place. And I’ve not even discussed the SSH backdoor which, as Wired notes, could have been the work of a different group entirely. That backdoor certainly isn’t NOBUS—Fox-IT claim to have found the backdoor password in six hours.
More details to come, I’m sure.
EDITED TO ADD (12/21): A technical overview of the SSH backdoor.
EDITED TO ADD (12/22): Matthew Green wrote a really good technical post about this.
They then piggybacked on top of it to build a backdoor of their own, something they were able to do because all of the hard work had already been done for them. The end result was a period in which someone—maybe a foreign government—was able to decrypt Juniper traffic in the U.S. and around the world. And all because Juniper had already paved the road.
Another good article.
Posted on December 21, 2015 at 6:52 AM •