Thursday, September 20, 2007

WLAN IDS and the bizarre world of security exploits

If you make security software (or any software, for that matter) sooner or later you will create what I technically refer to as a booboo. A security vulnerability in your software that raises the ire of your customers and make you feel foolish and sad. Not to worry, mateys, this happens to all software manufacturers. The important thing to remember here is how you handle it. Are you going to be a Pro or a shmuck? Recently, AirDefense (why no dot com?), a WLAN IDS manufacturer had just such and incident. Is this uncommon? Relatively so. Is it dire? Not really. Are you just sniping at your competitor? Kind of, but in the interest of disclosure, we had an incident a long time ago as well so, dear friends, I feel their pain.

Let's talk about what happened first. The vulnerability as explained here happens when you send a specially crafted HTTPS request, which will cause the HTTPS service on the system to crash. It appears from my quick glance as if you need to authenticate first and also be on the segment from which you can administer the system. So what is this? Granted it can bring down the sensor but actually it appears to be a "tempest in a teacup". You need to be the admin or snarf the admin login in order to cause a denial of service to one of probably many tens or hundereds of sensors. Unlikely at best.

So how was this handled? Professionally, in my humble opinion. AirDefense contacted the people who reported the exploit and directed them to a patch for it as reported here, "Solution: Update to the latest firmware version"

AirMagnet had a similar experience Last October. And we handled it the same way. Here is our official response to the problem from back then:

Re: Airmagnet management interfaces multiple vulnerabilities
AirMagnet vendor response below -
(1) The vulnerabilities are tested against an over-a-year old AirMagnet Enterprise product,
(2) Some of these vulnerabilities have been patched and fixed in AirMagnet Enterprise version 7.0.x,
(3) All vulnerabilities are now completely fixed by AirMagnet Enterprise version 7.5 build 6307 and later.
(4) AirMagnet customers can download patches from MyAirMagnet support web site (
So to summarize, there are a lot of security professionals out there who are trying to make a name for themselves and do it in an industry, like the WLAN industry, that is going places. They spend all their time looking for these exploits and I, for one, am glad they do. They keep us honest and ensure that we are doing our very best to protect our customers. Are their motives pure? Debatable but mostly. Do they sit down afterwards and talk amongst themselves about what l@m3rz those software guys are? You bet! Should I take it personally? Nah.

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