DNS bug tattler not the first to guess flaw details

Two weeks of silence helped, says researcher who found critical flaw

The researcher whose speculation led to an early disclosure of information about a critical flaw in the Domain Name System (DNS), the Internet's traffic cop, wasn't the first to come close to the truth, said the security expert who found the bug and organized a massive patching effort.

"Halvar [Flake] was not the first, not even the tenth," said Dan Kaminsky, director of penetration testing at Seattle-based IOActive and the researcher who uncovered the DNS flaw early this year and helped coordinate a multi-vendor patching process that kicked off two weeks ago. "A lot of other people figured this out first."

On Monday, Flake, the hacker moniker of Thomas Dullien, CEO of the German security company Zynamics, took a stab at the flaw and posted his best guesses about its details and how it might be exploited. Later on Monday, Flake's speculations were confirmed by Matasano Security, a security consultancy that included at least one researcher who had been briefed on the bug by Kaminsky several days later.

"I asked [others who had guessed the details] to hold off until Black Hat," said Kaminsky late Tuesday. "I really have to express my appreciation to them. The security community did not speak with one voice. Many [researchers] realized the importance of this."

When Kaminsky first announced the bug, he said he would provide technical details on August 7 at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. At the time, he said he wanted to give corporate and organization administrators a month to patch before he got specific about the bug.

Kaminsky seemed to bear no ill toward Flake for posting details of the DNS flaw. "I'm not going to say it was irresponsible," said Kaminsky of Flake. "It's his blog and he can say what he wants on it. I can only ask [that others hold information], I can't demand. My only regret is that I didn't have more of an opportunity to talk to him before he posted."

Kaminsky said he and Flake had traded e-mails before Flake went public.

Immediately after Flake's post and Matasano's confirmation, Kaminsky urged administrators responsible for DNS servers to patch immediately, a recommendation he repeated Tuesday. "There's definitely [more of] an increased risk than there was two days ago," he said. "I would advocate doing what you can [to patch now]. I tried to give you as much time as I could. I knew that 30 days was not going to be enough, but we didn't get them. But 13 was better than zero."

He was referring to the nearly two weeks between Flake's posting and availability of patches from Cisco Systems, the Internet Systems Consortium and Microsoft.

The flaw, he said, is serious. How serious? "Who do you want to be able to send e-mail to?" he asked as answer. "This is absolutely serious. Do you want to see the sites you expect? Or do you want to put people in the position where [attackers and identity thieves] are sending everyone to [servers in] China? Then patch."

With details of the DNS bug out of the bag, other researchers have said exploits won't be long in coming. HD Moore, creator of the Metasploit penetration testing framework, told the IDG News Service yesterday that attack code will probably appear soon, and could present big problems for months to come.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?