PuTTY bug diffie-hellman-range-check

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summary: Missing range check in Diffie-Hellman key exchange
class: bug: This is clearly an actual problem we want fixed.
difficulty: fun: Just needs tuits, and not many of them.
priority: high: This should be fixed in the next release.
present-in: 0.63
fixed-in: 0.64 174476813f0ed94337aecc3e2d13a202a1dc2fa8

PuTTY 0.63 and earlier versions implement Diffie-Hellman key exchange without checking that the value sent by the server is within the range [1,p-1]. This range check is required by section 8 of RFC 4253.

PuTTY 0.64 does fix this. In fact, it enforces the slightly smaller range [2,p-2], since values 1 and p-1 are also worthless for secure Diffie-Hellman.

Thanks to Matta Security for reporting this bug.

Matta considers this to be a security vulnerability, on the grounds that a Diffie-Hellman value of zero (for example) sent by the server, if not rejected by the client, would constitute a weak key and permit even a passive eavesdropper to read the session traffic. Matta has assigned this issue the id "MATTA-2015-002"; we were given this URL for the forthcoming advisory, but as of the time of writing it has not yet appeared.

With respect to Matta, we do not classify this as a vulnerability: a server sending a value of zero on purpose could just as easily expose the session traffic by other methods anyway (e.g. simply sending a copy of the traffic to whoever it wanted to), and given the range of values from which Diffie-Hellman keys are selected, a server sending the value zero by accident would happen with probability far, far lower than a spontaneous collision in a secure hash function, so if spontaneous hash collision is not considered a vulnerability then neither should this be.

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(last revision of this bug record was at 2022-09-11 23:46:37 +0100)