PuTTY vulnerability password-not-wiped

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summary: Passwords left in memory using SSH keyboard-interactive auth
class: vulnerability: This is a security vulnerability.
difficulty: fun: Just needs tuits, and not many of them.
priority: high: This should be fixed in the next release.
absent-in: 0.58
present-in: 0.59 0.60 0.61
fixed-in: r9357 2011-12-08 0.62 (0.63)

When PuTTY has sensitive data in memory and has no further need for it, it should wipe the data out of its memory, in case malware later gains access to the PuTTY process or the memory is swapped out to disk or written into a crash dump file. An obvious example of this is the password typed during SSH login; other examples include obsolete session keys, public-key passphrases, and the private halves of public keys.

PuTTY 0.59 to 0.61 inclusive had a bug in which they failed to wipe from memory the replies typed by the user during keyboard-interactive authentication. Since most modern SSH-2 servers use the keyboard-interactive method for password logins (rather than SSH-2's dedicated password method), this meant that those versions of PuTTY would store your login password in memory for as long as they were running.

PuTTY 0.62 fixes this bug. Keyboard-interactive responses, including passwords, are now correctly wiped from PuTTY's memory again.

However, it is still unavoidably very dangerous if malicious software is in a position to read the memory of your PuTTY processes: there is still a lot of sensitive data in there which cannot be wiped because it's still being used, e.g. session keys. If you're using public-key authentication and malware can read a Pageant process, that's even worse, because the decrypted private keys are stored in Pageant! This fix somewhat mitigates the risks, but no fix can eliminate them completely.

Various web pages link this bug with CVE ID CVE-2011-4607 (Ubuntu Security, Red Hat, oss-sec), although the page at cve.mitre.org claims that CVE is reserved but unpublished.

Audit trail for this vulnerability.


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(last revision of this bug record was at 2013-08-07 13:48:08 +0100)