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Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2018 09:05:58 -0700
From: Qualys Security Advisory <>
Subject: OpenSSH Username Enumeration

Hi all,

We sent the following email to and about an hour ago, and it was decided that we
should send it to right away (as far as
we know, no CVE has been assigned to this issue yet):


While reviewing the latest OpenSSH commits, we stumbled across:

Date:   Tue Jul 31 03:10:27 2018 +0000
    delay bailout for invalid authenticating user until after the packet
    containing the request has been fully parsed. Reported by Dariusz Tytko
    and Michal Sajdak; ok deraadt

We realized that without this patch, a remote attacker can easily test
whether a certain user exists or not (username enumeration) on a target
OpenSSH server:

  87 static int
  88 userauth_pubkey(struct ssh *ssh)
  89 {
 101         if (!authctxt->valid) {
 102                 debug2("%s: disabled because of invalid user", __func__);
 103                 return 0;
 104         }
 105         if ((r = sshpkt_get_u8(ssh, &have_sig)) != 0 ||
 106             (r = sshpkt_get_cstring(ssh, &pkalg, NULL)) != 0 ||
 107             (r = sshpkt_get_string(ssh, &pkblob, &blen)) != 0)
 108                 fatal("%s: parse request failed: %s", __func__, ssh_err(r));

The attacker can try to authenticate a user with a malformed packet (for
example, a truncated packet), and:

- if the user is invalid (it does not exist), then userauth_pubkey()
  returns immediately, and the server sends an SSH2_MSG_USERAUTH_FAILURE
  to the attacker;

- if the user is valid (it exists), then sshpkt_get_u8() fails, and the
  server calls fatal() and closes its connection to the attacker.

We believe that this issue warrants a CVE; it affects all operating
systems, all OpenSSH versions (we went back as far as OpenSSH 2.3.0,
released in November 2000), and is easier to exploit than previous
OpenSSH username enumerations (which were all timing attacks):

We also believe that this should be posted to oss-security right away:
the issue (commit) is already public, and if we spotted it, then others
(not so well intentioned) did too. We are at your disposal for
questions, comments, and further discussions.

Thank you very much! With best regards,

the Qualys Security Advisory team

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