Cisco Still Mum On Reported Code Theft - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Infrastructure

Cisco Still Mum On Reported Code Theft

It's still not commenting on a report on a Russian Web site that a sizeable portion of the code for its Internetwork Operating System has been stolen and is circulating on the Internet.

Cisco Systems is still remaining quiet five days after the news broke on a Russian security firm's Web site purporting that a sizable portion of the company's Internetwork Operating System has been stolen and is circulating on the Internet.

IOS is the software that runs much of Cisco's networking gear, which many of the world's businesses and governments use to run their critical IT networks.

Research firm Gartner issued a brief analysis of the purported source-code theft late Wednesday and warned Cisco customers that the theft creates "a potentially serious security problem." However, Gartner security analyst John Pescatore says he believes it's unlikely that a worm or a sizable uptick in hacker attacks is likely to result from the availability of the IOS source code.

Pescatore says the Cisco theft closely resembles the situation Microsoft found itself in February, when portions of its Windows operating-system source code leaked onto the Internet. "We're not finding new vulnerabilities from Microsoft's source code having been leaked," he says. "Typically, with a mature software product like IOS, the skills needed to find the big flaws require a pretty experienced security professional."

Stuart McClure, president and chief technology officer at information security firm Foundstone Inc., said Thursday that the level of security risk for companies running Cisco gear largely depends on how much, and what type of, IOS source code was actually pilfered. "If it's complete modules or large chunks of code, the risk is substantially higher," McClure said.

However, if an exploit--a tool hackers can use to more easily attack software vulnerabilities--or a worm were to surface, McClure predicted a rough ride for security professionals and network administrators. An attacker "could craft more vicious worms or complicated attacks as a result of having the source code," he said. "Source-code attack vectors can be more difficult to fix and patch."

Pescatore warns of a potentially more troublesome attack, depending on how much of Cisco's source code is available to hackers. He says attackers potentially could modify Cisco's licensing and registration mechanisms, meaning that businesses could be exposed to illegally modified copies of Cisco's software--which might, for example, contain some type of backdoor or Trojan-horse application that attackers could use to gain entry into systems. "Something like that is a bigger concern than a worm," Pescatore says.

Companies may not know how much risk their IT systems actually face until more details surrounding the theft surface.

As of Thursday morning, Cisco wouldn't say anything more than it had said when the claims became public earlier this week: It's "aware that a potential compromise of its proprietary information occurred," and the company is fully investigating what may have happened.

The FBI acknowledged Tuesday that it's looking into the case. A spokesman in the FBI press office told InformationWeek, "We are assisting Cisco in the investigation of a possible theft of proprietary data."

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
News
How GIS Data Can Help Fix Vaccine Distribution
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  2/17/2021
Commentary
Graph-Based AI Enters the Enterprise Mainstream
James Kobielus, Tech Analyst, Consultant and Author,  2/16/2021
Slideshows
11 Ways DevOps Is Evolving
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  2/18/2021
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
Download this report to compare how cloud usage and spending patterns have changed in 2020, and how respondents think they'll evolve over the next two years.
Video
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you.
Slideshows
Flash Poll