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The weaknesses in SNMP, a core set of protocols widely used in network management systems, were discovered during rigorous tests by Finland's Oulu University secure programming group.
SNMP is used in systems from core network devices such as firewalls, switches, routers and wireless access points, to operating systems and networked printers.
The university found eight vulnerabilities that mean key Internet systems could be brought down by a denial of service attack. The weaknesses affect both the management systems and the agents that sit on networked devices and report operational states to the management console.
Ian Finlay, Internet security analyst at Cert, said, "We are viewing this as potentially more serious than the Code Red worm attacks. Code Red attacked [only] those using Microsoft's IIS server. SNMP is more widespread." The vulnerabilities probably exist in many of the Web's control systems so some outages may occur.