Attackers could use the vulnerability to gain access to personal and security login information, or send false data through the CiscoWorks IDSMC (Management Center for IDS Sensors), which manages configuration for Ciscos intrusion detection and prevention systems.
"Cisco devices make up a significant portion of the backbone of the Internet, so any vulnerability in a Cisco device is going to be something bad guys will look at carefully," said Shane Coursen, senior technical consultant for Kaspersky Lab Inc., a security firm in Woburn, Mass.
"If they go after this particular vulnerability, they are taking the first step to a greater exploit."
Specifically, the advisory notes that the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate checking function within IDSMC and Ciscos Monitoring Center for Security contains a vulnerability.
Spoofing IDSMC through the SSL functionality could compromise parts of the network and the reporting capabilities of the product, allowing attackers to use compromised login information to in turn gain access to other restricted and deeper parts of the network.
Though its centered on SSL, security researchers dont see a significant weakness, or increasing instances in SSL protocol vulnerabilities.
"We dont see this extremely often," said Coursen. "SSL is solid and a good answer to a problem. Is it the holy grail of security protocols? No, but its a good system and protocol to have in place."
"Its a vulnerability in a way that they were keying SSL in on these products and how Cisco handles the SSL certificates," said Bill Clark, senior vice president of product management and marketing for security firm NitroSecurity in Portsmouth, N.H.
"You can hack in with a bogus certificate, then see security information and add additional information that shouldnt be there."
Coursen said hackers often pay attention to advisories to create new attack methods, but proof of concept code for this vulnerability doesnt seem to have appeared at this point. San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco said it hasnt found anything either.
"To date, Cisco is not aware of any active exploitation of this vulnerability, and Cisco has made a free software fix available," a Cisco spokesperson told eWEEK.com. "Customers should refer to the security advisory for additional details including instructions on obtaining the software fix."
The update, Service Pack 1 for IPSMC version 2.1 and Monitoring Center for Security 2.1, is available for download at Ciscos Web site.
Cisco said the service pack fixes the monitoring of certificate information, provides messages when the certificate changes and allows the Monitoring Center to drop the connection upon witnessing a change.
A revision expected later this year will also allow IPSMC to drop connections.