Monday, September 7, 2015

Cisco pro switches have appalling physical bug that can cause a reboot

If you think software bugs are awkward, just wait to see how Cisco has design some of their professional network switches, making them vulnerable to a simply hardware bug: plugging in a network cable can reboot the device and enter express setup mode.

Well, this isn't a new issue. The incident takes as back to 2013, and refers to Cisco Catalyst 3650 and 3850 series of switches. The problem is that Cisco thought it would be a good idea to place a push button right next to an ethernet port; and should you use a snagless network, it's protective boot might press on it and cause the switch to reboot and enter express configuration mode.

Sure, this will happen only with some network cables, but considering this is the sort of equipment that will deal with lots and lots of ethernet cables, it would be safe to assume some extra care would go into it to make sure it would work even under "worst case scenarios". Besides, the simple act of placing a push button just a few millimeters apart from a socket you'll insert a plug into, makes me wonder what they were thinking about. (At the very least I'd imagine they'd put it in a recessed cavity, to reduce unwanted activations.

But fear not, as Cisco recommends a workaround that would make MacGyver proud: they recommed you simply cut or trim the boot on the cable plugged to the port 1. (Ok, to be fair, they also say you can disable the express boot via command line, but that's not as cool as a physical, and literal, hack! :)

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