Cisco devices saddled with weakened password encryption

Instead of improving it, an implementation issue has left a “limited” number of Cisco IOS and Cisco IOS XE releases with a weaker password hashing algorithm, making new passwords more susceptible to brute-force attacks, Cisco warns in a recently released advisory.

The Type 4 algorithm was designed to be a stronger alternative to the existing Type 5 and Type 7 algorithms, but due to the aforementioned issue not only does it not salt the passwords, but it also goes only through a single iteration of SHA-256 instead of the intended 1,000. In addition to all this, a device running one of these releases loses the capability to create a Type 5 password.

All 15.x versions (based on the Cisco IOS 15 code base) are affected.

Due to a number of other problems, Cisco has decided to introduce a new password type that will implement the original design intended for Type 4 passwords: PBKDF2 with SHA-256, an 80-bit salt, and 1,000 iterations.

According to the advisory, the issue has been discovered and reported by Philipp Schmidt and Jens Steube from the Hashcat Project.