Risk
12/15/2010
11:46 PM
50%
50%

FBI Allegedly Planted OpenBSD Backdoor

Security experts have questioned the allegation in the absence of hard evidence, but a former FBI contractor contends the agency installed a crypto backdoor in the open source, Unix-derived operating system 10 years ago.

A former government contractor has accused the FBI of installing a crypto backdoor in OpenBSD, the open source, Unix-derived operating system, circa 2000.

The allegation was made by Gregory Perry, former chief technology officer of FBI contractor Network Security Technology, who on Saturday emailed software engineer Theo de Raadt, the founder and leader of the OpenBSD project.

In his email, Perry said: "My NDA with the FBI has recently expired, and I wanted to make you aware of the fact that the FBI implemented a number of backdoors and side channel key leaking mechanisms into the [Open Cluster Framework], for the express purpose of monitoring the site to site VPN encryption system implemented by EOUSA, the parent organization to the FBI."

Perry also alleged that because of the backdoor, people on the FBI payroll -- such as virtualization expert Scott Lowe -- were continuing to advocate "the use of OpenBSD for VPN and firewalling implementations."

Perry's email was released by de Raadt, who said that "over 10 years, the IPSEC code" -- referring to OpenBSD's IPsec VPN capabilities -- "has gone through many changes and fixes, so it is unclear what the true impact of these allegations are."

While Perry's email was private, de Raadt said that he was releasing it publicly so that anyone in the know could audit the OpenBSD code, explore the allegations, or defend themselves, as appropriate. "The mail came in privately from a person I have not talked to for nearly 10 years. I refuse to become part of such a conspiracy, and will not be talking to Gregory Perry about this," he said.

Rebuttals have been swift. On Tuesday, Scott Lowe blogged: "Let's get right to the point and set the record straight: I am not, nor have I ever been, affiliated with or employed by the FBI or any other government agency."

On Wednesday, former FBI cyber special agent Ernest E.J. Hilbert said that while the FBI might examine software, it didn't add backdoors. "There is no way that the FBI paid anyone to create backdoors in OpenBSD and put it out there for the world to use. It just doesn't happen that way," he told Kaspersky Lab's Threatpost.

But in subsequent remarks, Perry defended his allegations: "In reality, the Clinton administration was very quietly working behind the scenes to embed backdoors in many areas of technology as a counter to their supposed relaxation of the Department of Commerce encryption export regulations."

For now, many security experts seem unconvinced. "Aside from the mailing list post, there is little if any hard evidence of such a backdoor," said SANS chief research officer Johannes Ullrich in a blog post. "My gut feeling is that this is FUD if not an outright fraud."

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-8142
Published: 2014-12-20
Use-after-free vulnerability in the process_nested_data function in ext/standard/var_unserializer.re in PHP before 5.4.36, 5.5.x before 5.5.20, and 5.6.x before 5.6.4 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted unserialize call that leverages improper handling of duplicate keys w...

CVE-2013-4440
Published: 2014-12-19
Password Generator (aka Pwgen) before 2.07 generates weak non-tty passwords, which makes it easier for context-dependent attackers to guess the password via a brute-force attack.

CVE-2013-4442
Published: 2014-12-19
Password Generator (aka Pwgen) before 2.07 uses weak pseudo generated numbers when /dev/urandom is unavailable, which makes it easier for context-dependent attackers to guess the numbers.

CVE-2013-7401
Published: 2014-12-19
The parse_request function in request.c in c-icap 0.2.x allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) via a URI without a " " or "?" character in an ICAP request, as demonstrated by use of the OPTIONS method.

CVE-2014-2026
Published: 2014-12-19
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the search functionality in United Planet Intrexx Professional before 5.2 Online Update 0905 and 6.x before 6.0 Online Update 10 allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the request parameter.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.