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Security flaw in Cisco Catalyst 6000 & 6500 switches

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February 9, 2004

According to Cisco, Catalyst 6000 and 6500 switches and Cisco 7600 routers could freeze or reset if the device encounters a Layer 3 packet that is inconsistent in size with the Layer 2 frame encapsulating it.

A hardware vulnerability may cause some high-end Cisco Systems Inc. switches and routers with specific configurations to crash, but only under very specific circumstances.

To be affected, routers and switches must have a Multilayer Switch Feature Card 2 (MSFC2) with a FlexWAN or Optical Services Module (OSM). Equipment with a MSFC2 card running Cisco IOS Version 12.1(8b)E14, even without FlexWAN or OSM, are also vulnerable. Cisco CatOS software is not affected.

Cisco says that a Layer 2 frame crafted to have an inconsistent size with an encapsulated Layer 3 packet, and sent repeatedly to a vulnerable device, could bring down the switch or router. For this to happen, the packet must be routed in software — hardware-routed packets would not affect the device, Cisco says.

The vulnerability can only be corrected with a software upgrade. According to Cisco, only attack traffic sent from a node on an internal LAN could affect vulnerable switches or routers, since the specially-crafted packets would be corrected by non-vulnerable Layer 3 network devices before hitting a vulnerable switch or router.

Source: IT World Canada

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