Home Security More than 150,000 switches have exploitable Cisco tool turned on

More than 156,000 Cisco switches on the Internet still have the company's Smart Install Client turned on, despite warnings that the tool could be exploited to scan such switches and change software in order to stage attacks.

Omar Santos, Cisco's cyber security principal engineer at the company's product security incident response team, said in a tweet that the number of hosts had dropped by about 10,000 after a week a warning was issued by Cisco's Talos Intelligence Group on 5 April. (Graphic below, right, shows the countries where the vulnerable switches are located.)

"We are down 10,000 hosts or so in a week," Santos wrote. "But there are still over 156K devices with Smart Install exposed to the Internet according to @shodanhq !! Please disable it or block TCP port 4786! We are still seeing abuse of the protocol." He added that a scan using the Shodan search engine had shown that this number of switches had the utility still active. 

Recent attacks on sites belonging to Russian and Iranian interests have been put down to exploitation of the protocol in the Smart Install Client.

The attackers have been leaving patriotic messages on on the Web interface of the routers they had attacked.

shodan cisco scanA week back, Santos clarified in a tweet that it was the protocol that being exploited, and not another vulnerability in the Smart Install Client, which had been found recently and patched.

"Folks, CVE-2018-0171 is NOT what is being exploited globally," he wrote. "It is the protocol abuse. You MUST disable Smart Install or apply an ACL! The protocol is broken!"

In a blog post on 5 April, Talos wrote that the Cisco Smart Install Client was a legacy utility that could be used for no-touch installation of new Cisco switches.

But, it said, the protocol used by this tool could be abused to modify the settings of the TFTP server, exfiltrate configuration files, and change settings to facilitate the execution of IOS commands.

IOS is a package of routing, switching, inter-networking and telecommunications functions integrated into a multi-tasking operating system.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.


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