Slashdot | Debian Bug Leaves Private SSL/SSH Keys Guessable

The patch that broke it was checked in by Kurt Roeckx []. Don’t know if he broke it or if he was just the gatekeeper for checkins. See: [] which shows the change that introduced the bug; and its parent node: [] which shows the maintainer responsible.From looking at this patch, I think this is what happened. valgrind complained about a rather unusual coding convention in ssleay_rand_bytes. This is a function that returns random data into a buffer. However, before writing into the buffer, it reads from the buffer and incorporates the old contents into the internal random state. valgrind complained about this use of an output buffer for input. Normally you would never want to use potentially uninitialized data like this, but in this case it is OK as all that is being done is the data is being folded into the random state. In the worst case, this can’t hurt, and maybe it will help, if the old data had some randomness.Anyway, valgrind complained about it, and the maintainer commented out the use of the buffer. That would actually be OK, it is not a big deal. But the implementor made a mistake, and also commented out another similar usage, in a different function, ssleay_rand_add. This was a huge mistake, as the purpose of ssleay_rand_add is to add randomness into the random state. In that function, buf is an INPUT buffer, and adding it into the random state is perfectly legitimate, in fact it is the whole purpose of the function. But apparently because it looked similar to the questionable usage in ssleay_rand_bytes, the maintainer commented out the code in ssleay_rand_add at the same time. (I don’t know whether valgrind also complained about this second usage, but if so, it was mistaken. I think it’s more likely that the maintainer just got fooled and over-generalized from the valgrind complaint.)So the whole thing was an attempt to clean up code and remove warnings, but the fix accidentally broke a crucial piece of functionality, rendering ssleay_rand_add completely non-functional. So any attempt to add randomness into the RNG state, such as for seeding purposes, is ineffective. The random state ends up with much less variability, and therefore all the crypto is weak. As Bruce Schneier points out, bad crypto looks much the same as good crypto, so it took this long to notice it.Hats off to the reviewer who picked up on the problem. Don’t know who it was, but the same Kurt Roeckx [] checked in the fix.