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New IBM Database Flaw Could Affect Several Other Vendors' Products

Denial-of-service (DoS) attack vulnerability in IBM's SolidDB affects HP OpenView
It turns out a newly discovered vulnerability found and reported in HP OpenView was really a bug in an IBM relational database product deployed in OpenView -- and the vulnerability could affect many other applications that also use the so-called IBM SolidDB technology in their products.

Core Security said it found an exploitable bug in the database server core component of IBM's Solid DB, a caching database technology that basically speeds up application and database performance by offering the database in memory. The vulnerability would allow an attacker to execute a denial-of-service attack against the database service by sending a packet with an invalid error code number in it.

HP this week patched the vulnerability, which affects its OpenView Network Node Manager product, and IBM last Friday patched SolidDB with SolidDB/Universal Cache 6.3 Fix Pack 3. So far, it's unclear whether products from Cisco, HP, Alcatel, Nokia Siemens, IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, and Informix that include SolidDB are also definitely vulnerable to the DoS attack. The flaw lies in IBM SolidDB Server versions 6.30.0.29 and 6.30.0.33.

"What started as a single product turned out to be a much bigger issue," says Ivan Arce, CTO for Core, which discovered the IBM SolidDB flaw after HP ruled out the flaw in its own code. "Had we not moved on in our investigating it [further], it may have gone completely unnoticed."

The incident reflects the long arm of a vulnerability when it spans multiple vendors' products. But it's not the first time one vendor's vulnerability has affected other vendors' products. John Pescatore, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, says Microsoft's recent graphics-handling library vulnerabilty, as well as a previous IIS bug that affected Cisco routers, are two examples of one vendor's bug creating a domino effect on others' products.

"This is a pre-Service Oriented Architecture [SOA] example of the risks" in software components being used in different places over and over, he says. "Think about the Google components you can mash up with your own apps. If there's a vulnerability in one of those components and they get reused in thousands of places," the vulnerability becomes more widespread, he says.

That makes patching difficult, too. "IBM made the patch available, but it can't patch other vendors' software," he says.

Core says the IBM bug could ultimately impact many other products. According to IBM, there are more than 3 million SolidDB deployments spanning telecommunications networks, enterprise applications, and embedded software and systems. That means those products are also vulnerable to a DoS attack exploiting this bug, according to Core. The trouble with a vulnerability that spans multiple vendors' products is that coordination can be complicated, Arce says. Whichever vendor discovers the bug has to contact the other or others. "The two vendors may have different development cycles and skills," he says. "And patching is relatively more complicated."

Customers of products that contain SolidDB should first check how integrated it is in the product. "See if it's open to requests to the network and if it's vulnerable or not" to the attack, Arce says. And apply the IBM patch, he says.

The good news is that the bug is only exploitable as a DoS attack, he says, and nothing more. And Core has not seen any exploits in the wild, Arce says.

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