Security analysis of VTun
Jerome Etienne email@example.com
This text is a security analysis of VTun.
It includes a description of the security
(see section 2) based on the source and
lists the possible attacks (see section 3).
An attacker can modify packets, replay them, learn pattern
of the plain text or easily guess low-entropy passwords.
From the man page, "VTun provides the method for creating
Virtual Tunnels over TCP/IP networks and allows to shape,
compress, encrypt traffic in that tunnels."
The analysis has been done on VTun version 2.5b1
which has been found at http://vtun.sourceforge.net.
From the FAQ, "VTun doesn't try to be the MOST secure
tunneling software in the world, it tries to be ...
secure enough instead."
In my opinion, it is a rather dangerous statement as the
definition of the 'enough' entirely depends on the user and
not on the designer or implementor.
This text aims to clarify the security provided by VTun.
2 Security description
The security has been analyzed from the source as the distribution
doesn't contain any detailed description.
2.1 packet forwarding
The forwarded packets are encrypted with blowfish in
ECB using MD5( user password ) as encryption key (see lfd_encrypt.c).
As ECB requires the cipher text to be block aligned and
blowfish has 64bit blocks, the packet is 64bit aligned.
The pad is zeros prepended to the packet and
the first byte of the packet is its length.
2.2 Connection establishment
During the connection establishment, the client authenticates
itself to the server with a challenge/response scheme (i.e.
a simple way to authenticate without sending passwords in clear)
based on a user password.
The challenge is 16bytes of random (see VTUN_CHAL_SIZE)
chosen by the server. They are encrypted with a key
equal to MD5( user password ). The server sends the
encrypted challenge to the client, the client decrypts
it and replies to it.
The above explanation assumes the HAVE_SSL is defined.
If it isn't, the authentication is very insecure because
the challenges is just XOR-ed with
the password, and the challenge is based on rand() output
which is known as easily predictable.
This section explain how an attacker can modify packets,
replay them, learn pattern
of the plain text or easily guess a low-entropy password.
3.1 forwarded packet aren't authenticated
The forwarded packets aren't authenticated, so an attacker can
modify them without being detected.
The aim of encryption is to make the data unreadable for
anybody who doesn't know the key.
It doesn't prevent an attacker from modifying the data.
People assume that an attacker won't do it because the attacker
wouldn't be able to choose the resulting clear text.
But this section shows that the attacker can choose the resulting
clear text to some extent and that
modifying the cypher text data may be interesting
even if the attacker ignores the result.
3.1.1 To insert random data
If the attacker modifies the cipher text without choosing the
resulting clear text, it will likely produce random data.
The legitimate user won't detect the modification and
will use them as if they were valid. As they likely appears random,
it will result in a Denial of Service (aka DoS).
3.1.2 To insert chosen data
The encryption mode used by encrypted loop device is ECB[oST81].
ECB allows cut/paste attacks i.e. the attacker can cut encrypted
data from one part of a packet and paste them anywhere
in another packet. As both data sections have been encrypted by the same key,
the clear text won't be completely random data.
This lack of authentication isn't a ECB flaw. Authentication isn't
considered an aim of the encryption mode, so most
modes (e.g. CBC, CFB, OFB) don't authenticate the data.
To use another mode would be flawed in the same way except
if they explicitly protect against forgery. Recently some
modes including authentication popped up to speed up the
encryption / authentication couple but as far as i know
they are all patented.
3.2 Easy dictionary attacks
The authentication is based on a secret key chosen by
the user. The key is trivially derived from the user password
by computing MD5( user password ).
Unfortunately, users often choose low-entropy
passwords because those are easier to remember,
even if it is a bad behavior from a security point of view.
This allows attackers to try dictionary attacks i.e. to
try likely password (e.g. jack the ripper).
This weakness isn't inherently a VTun weakness as the password
choice depends on the users.
He may choose a random password (e.g. /dev/random output) and
so won't be vulnerable.
When the security ultimately relies on a low-entropy password
chosen by a user,
dictionary attacks can't be stopped but they can be made
sufficiently harder to be impractical (e.g. salt,
key derivation sufficiently slow).
VTun doesn't use those tricks.
3.3 No anti-replay protection
VTun doesn't include any protection against packet's replay, so
an attacker who eavesdrops the encrypted packets can successfully replay
them later and the destination will consider them as legitimate.
They can be replayed inside the same tunnel or
in another instance the tunnel. The attacker can even replay them to the
source: a packet from A to B can be send to A which will accept it.
3.4 Usage of ECB
VTun uses blowfish with ECB but ECB doesn't hide the
plain-text patterns inside a given packet or between distincts packets.
A given plain text block will produce the same cipher text block
independently of the packet it is in and of its location inside it.
The attacker can recognize the repetition of identical cipher
text blocks and obtain information on the plain text.
This text describes vulnerabilities of VTun security.
An attacker can modify packets, replay them, learn patterns
of the plain text or easily guess low-entropy passwords.
All those attacks are independent and can be combined to perform
even stronger attacks.
National Institute of Standards and Technology.
implementing and using the nbs data encryption standard.
Federal information processing standards fips74, April 1981.
File translated from
On 11 Jan 2002, 15:31.