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December 15, 2010


OpenBSD IPSec Possibly Probably Not Backdoored by FBI

In a post to the OpenBSD mailing list, developer Theo de Raadt reveals an email from an ex-contributor (Gregory Perry) alleging that money was accepted from the FBI around 2000-2001, in return for implementing a backdoor into the IPSec stack. Such a backdoor would give the FBI the ability to eavesdrop on any IPSec connection made using OpenBSD, or any other projects that have since made use of its IPSec code.

Clearly this would be a big deal if true, and although we know that open source projects are regularly backdoored by rogue developers or ‘hackers’ (such as the recent ProFTPd backdoor), it is not often that we hear of governments inserting some themselves. Should we be surprised? After all it is known that the NSA was involved with the development of DES by altering the algorithm’s S-Boxes and suggesting a shorter key length. There are also rumors of a covert backdoor in several versions of the Windows OS. That said, many people are smelling a troll in this case.

Following this information (can we call it a leak rumor?), OpenBSD’s IPSec code will undoubtedly come under quite a bit of scrutiny, and I’m sure we will hear a lot more about it should anything untoward be uncovered.

Read the full mailing list post here, archived below for posterity.

[Update] Scott Lowe denies being affiliated with the FBI, and Jason Wright denies having inserted a backdoor. This is sounding more and more like a trolling. To what end, I couldn’t speculate. It’s also worth noting that this kind of activity would probably not fall under a normal NDA, but under a government-level Top Secret classification which lasts at least 25 years…

An interesting observation about OpenBSD IPSec and Stuxnet.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dec 15 2010

    Until they find the actual code, it’s not even a leak; it’s an unsubstantiated rumor.

  2. Dec 15 2010

    Hi Sean,
    True, hence the ‘possibly’ in the post title. That said, the way the the ‘leak’ is worded, it sounds like it has some amount of plausibility. Either way I look forward to the results any code reviews that will take place following this rumor.

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