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BIND 9 Users Should Upgrade to Most Recent Version to Avoid Remote Exploit

Evan Daniels

A remote exploit in the BIND 9 DNS software could allow hackers to trigger excessive memory use, significantly impacting the performance of DNS and other services running on the same server.

BIND is the most popular open source DNS server, and is almost universally used on Unix-based servers, including those running on Linux, the BSD variants, Mac OS X, and proprietary Unix variants like Solaris.

A flaw was recently discovered in the regular expression implementation used by the libdns library, which is part of the BIND package. The flaw enables a remote user to cause the 'named' process to consume excessive amounts of memory, eventually crashing the process and tying up server resources to the point at which the server becomes unresponsive.

Affected BIND versions include all 9.7 releases, 9.8 releases up to 9.8.5b1, and 9.9 releases up to version 9.9.3b1. Only versions of BIND running on UNIX-based systems are affected; the Windows version is not exploitable in this way. The Internet Systems Consortium considers this to be a critical exploit.

All authoritative and recursive DNS servers running the affected versions are vulnerable.

The most recent versions of BIND in the 9.8 and 9.9 series have been updated to close the vulnerability by disabling regular expression support by default.

The 9.7 series is no longer supported and those using it should update to one of the more recent versions. However, if that is not desirable or possible there is a workaround, which involves recompiling the software without regex support. Regex support can be disabled by editing the BIND software's 'config.h' file and replacing the line that reads "#define HAVE_REGEX_H 1" with "#undef HAVE_REGEX_H" before running 'make clean' and then recompiling BIND as usual.

At the time of the initial report, ISC stated that there were no active exploits for the vulnerability, but a user reported that he was able to develop and implement a working exploit in ten minutes.

While most of the major DNS providers, including DNS Made Easy, have patched and updated their software, DNS software on servers around the Internet tends to lag behind the most recent version. Because BIND is so widely used and DNS is essential to the functioning of the Internet, knowledge of this vulnerability should be disseminated as widely as possible to encourage system administrators to update.

It should be noted that this exploit is totally unrelated to the widely publicized problems with the DNS that allows criminals to launch DNS amplification attacks. Those attacks depend on a misconfiguration of DNS servers rather than a flaw in the software. However, both problems can be used to create a denial of service attack. Open recursive DNS servers can be used to direct large amounts of data at their targets; effectively using DNS as a weapon to attack other parts of the Internet's infrastructure, whereas the regex vulnerability could be used to attack the DNS itself.

By Evan Daniels. More blog posts from Evan Daniels can also be read here.

Related topics: DNS, DNS Security

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