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Give Debian maintainers the deserved blame

Give Debian maintainers the deserved blame

Posted May 18, 2008 13:08 UTC (Sun) by liljencrantz (guest, #28458)
In reply to: Give Debian maintainers the deserved blame by ranmachan
Parent article: Debian vulnerability has widespread effects


Accessing uninitialized data leads to undefined behaviour. It can be argued that this
undefined behaviour should logically/morally/statistically be limited to filling that memory
region with arbitrary data, while letting the system be otherwise unaffected, but that is not
required by the standard. The question of what undefined means w.r.t. the C standard has come
up many, many times in the past where users have repeatedly expected that code triggering
undefined behaviour should still result in what they feel is «reasonable behaviour», e.g. a
limit to the definition of undefined. This point of view has never been accepted, as it has
time and time again been found that doing so will decrease the performance or the reliability
of software. It would be perfectly standards compliant for the compiler to emit code causing
the system to crash, or to eject a spear from the monitor into the users head. The former
behaviour would probably be ideal.

As has been said many, many times earlier in this debate, relying on 'clever tricks' that
happen to work on most modern systems is a very bad idea. Causing programs like Valgrind to
spew out errors making debugging harder is the least of the problems with this code; it will
very likely cause programs to crash under some future environemnt and it makes the code
significantly harder to understand. Because uninitialized memory is also something that an
attacker may be able to guess or even modify, this is also a rather significant information
leak. All said and done, this part of the OpenSSL code is a very large and scary bug. The fact
that the OpenSSL developers seem to be unwilling to admit to just how bad the quality of this
code was really scares me w.r.t. the overall quality of OpenSSL. If this type of gung ho,
«works for me» attitude is common in OpenSSL, there are likely many more of these issues
lurking around in that code base.

Note 1: Obviously, the bug created by the DD while trying to fix the original bug was much
bigger than the original bug.

Note 2: The existance of extremely shoddy code in OpenSSL is not what scares me - we are all
fallible. What scares me is the response of the OpenSSL team.

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