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Cisco Security Advisory

Default Administrative Password in Cisco Security Monitoring, Analysis and Response System (CS-MARS)

Advisory ID: cisco-sa-20060111-mars

Revision 1.0

For Public Release 2006 January 11 16:00  UTC (GMT)

Related Resources:

View related Alert


The Cisco Security Monitoring, Analysis and Response System (CS-MARS) software contains a default password for an undocumented administrative account. This password is set, without any user intervention, during installation of the software used by CS-MARS appliances, and is the same in all installations of the product. Users must be authenticated to the CS-MARS command line in order to utilize the default password to access the administrative account.

Software version 4.1.2 and earlier of CS-MARS are affected by this vulnerability. Customers running software version 4.1.3 or higher can mitigate the effects of this vulnerability by applying the workaround listed in this advisory. Cisco has made free software available to address this vulnerability for affected customers.

This advisory is posted at

Affected Products

This section provides details on affected products.

Vulnerable Products

All versions of CS-MARS prior to version 4.1.3 are affected by this vulnerability.

To verify the version of CS-MARS software, use a SSH client to login into the system administration command line interface with pnadmin account and execute the version command.

prompt$ ssh pnadmin@
pnadmin@'s password:
Last login: Fri Dec 30 15:19:14 2005 from

  CS MARS - Mitigation and Response System

    ? for list of commands

[pnadmin]$ version
4.1.2 (2042)

Products Confirmed Not Vulnerable

No other Cisco products are currently known to be affected by this vulnerability.


Cisco Security Monitoring, Analysis and Response System (CS-MARS) is a security system that receives event logs from various network devices, correlates and analyzes the received data for security problems and reports the findings. In addition, CS-MARS can perform automated tasks to mitigate security problems. All CS-MARS appliances ship with a default password set for the undocumented administrative account root. This privileged account is intended to be used only by authorized Cisco development engineers for advanced debugging purposes. No direct remote access to the root account is permitted. In order to access a privileged system shell, users must first successfully login into the CS-MARS system administration command line interface with the pnadmin account. Once authenticated, the root account can be accessed with the undocumented command expert.

Prior to CS-MARS version 4.1.3, users do not have a method to modify the root password. CS-MARS versions 4.1.3 and later provide the command passwd expert, which allows users to modify a portion of the root password providing additional security. The selected user password is combined with a Cisco controlled component to form a new root password. After performing this step, neither Cisco personnel or the user can access the root account without knowledge of both components used to create the root password. When authorized Cisco development engineers need access to the root account for advanced debugging, both Cisco and the user will need to enter their portion of the configured root password to enable access. Please refer to the Workarounds section of this advisory for more information.

This vulnerability is documented in Cisco Bug ID CSCsc83940 ( registered customers only) .

Vulnerability Scoring Details

CVSS is a standards-based scoring method that conveys vulnerability severity and helps determine urgency and priority of response.

Cisco has provided a base and temporal score. Customers can then compute environmental scores to assist in determining the impact of the vulnerability in individual networks.

Cisco has provided an FAQ to answer additional questions regarding CVSS at .

Cisco has also provided a CVSS calculator to help compute the environmental impact for individual networks at .


Successful exploitation of the vulnerability will result in an attacker gaining full administrative privileges on the CS-MARS device.

Software Versions and Fixes

When considering software upgrades, also consult and any subsequent advisories to determine exposure and a complete upgrade solution.

In all cases, customers should exercise caution to be certain the devices to be upgraded contain sufficient memory and that current hardware and software configurations will continue to be supported properly by the new release. If the information is not clear, contact the Cisco Technical Assistance Center ("TAC") or your contracted maintenance provider for assistance.

CS-MARS version 4.1.3 and later contain the mitigation for this vulnerability. CS-MARS upgrades are incremental. All available updates must be applied in order to reach the most recent version. CS-MARS software updates can be obtained at the following site:


The vulnerability described in this advisory can be mitigated by first upgrading the software on CS-MARS appliances to version 4.1.3 and then using the passwd expert command to modify the root password.

CS-MARS appliances can be upgraded via the HTTPS management interface or system administration command line. Please refer to the CS-MARS product documentation for instructions on how to upgrade the software. While the documentation refers to CS-MARS 4.x versions, the instructions are also applicable to CS-MARS 3.x versions.

Once a CS-MARS appliance is upgraded to version 4.1.3, the root password can be modified using the passwd expert command. Using a SSH client, login into the CS-MARS system administration interface with the pnadmin account and use the passwd expert command to select a new password. The selected password must be at least six characters long.

prompt$ ssh pnadmin@
pnadmin@'s password: Last
login: Fri Dec 30 19:45:51 2005 from

  CS MARS - Mitigation and Response System

    ? for list of commands

[pnadmin]$ passwd expert
New password:
Retype new password:

Obtaining Fixed Software

Cisco has made free software available to address this vulnerability for affected customers. Prior to deploying software, customers should consult their maintenance provider or check the software for feature set compatibility and known issues specific to their environment.

Customers may only install and expect support for the feature sets they have purchased. By installing, downloading, accessing or otherwise using such software upgrades, customers agree to be bound by the terms of Cisco's software license terms found at, or as otherwise set forth at Downloads at

Do not contact either "" or "" for software upgrades.

Customers with Service Contracts

Customers with contracts should obtain upgraded software through their regular update channels. For most customers, this means that upgrades should be obtained through the Software Center on Cisco's worldwide website at

Customers Using Third-Party Support Organizations

Customers whose Cisco products are provided or maintained through prior or existing agreement with third-party support organizations such as Cisco Partners, authorized resellers, or service providers should contact that support organization for guidance and assistance with the appropriate course of action in regards to this advisory.

The effectiveness of any workaround or fix is dependent on specific customer situations such as product mix, network topology, traffic behavior, and organizational mission. Due to the variety of affected products and releases, customers should consult with their service provider or support organization to ensure any applied workaround or fix is the most appropriate for use in the intended network before it is deployed.

Customers Without Service Contracts

Customers who purchase direct from Cisco but who do not hold a Cisco service contract and customers who purchase through third-party vendors but are unsuccessful in obtaining fixed software through their point of sale should obtain software patches and bug fixes by contacting the Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC). TAC contacts are as follows.

  • +1 800 553 2447 (toll free from within North America)
  • +1 408 526 7209 (toll call from anywhere in the world)
  • e-mail:

Have your product serial number available and provide the URL of this notice as evidence of entitlement to a software patch or bug fix. Customers without service contracts should request a software patch or bug fix through the TAC.

Refer to for additional TAC contact information, including special localized telephone numbers and instructions and e-mail addresses for use in various languages.

Exploitation and Public Announcements

The Cisco PSIRT is not aware of any public announcements or malicious use of the vulnerability described in this advisory.

Status of This Notice: Final


A stand-alone copy or Paraphrase of the text of this document that omits the distribution URL in the following section is an uncontrolled copy, and may lack important information or contain factual errors.


This advisory is posted on Cisco's worldwide website at

In addition to worldwide web posting, a text version of this notice is clear-signed with the Cisco PSIRT PGP key and is posted to the following e-mail and Usenet news recipients.


Future updates of this advisory, if any, will be placed on Cisco's worldwide website, but may or may not be actively announced on mailing lists or newsgroups. Users concerned about this problem are encouraged to check the above URL for any updates.

Revision History

Revision 1.0


Initial Release

Cisco Security Procedures

Complete information on reporting security vulnerabilities in Cisco products, obtaining assistance with security incidents, and registering to receive security information from Cisco, is available on Cisco's worldwide website at This includes instructions for press inquiries regarding Cisco security notices. All Cisco security advisories are available at

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