How to Fix CVE-2023-20101- Static Credentials Vulnerability in Cisco Emergency Responder?

On October 4th, 2023, Cisco disclosed a critical vulnerability in Cisco Emergency Responder that could allow an attacker to gain privileged access using static credentials. has assigned CVE-2023-20101 to track this vulnerability which stems from the presence of hardcoded static credentials for the root account in Cisco Emergency Responder. By exploiting these static credentials, an attacker could remotely login as root without authentication and execute arbitrary commands. With a CVSS score of 9.8, this vulnerability allows complete remote system compromise so it’s critical for businesses using Cisco Emergency Responder to patch immediately.

In this blog post, we will cover the details of CVE-2023-20101, affected products, and finally, how to fix CVE-2023-20101, static credentials vulnerability in Cisco Emergency Responder.

A Short Introduction to Cisco Emergency Responder

Cisco Emergency Responder is an emergency call-handling system designed for Cisco Unified Communications Manager. It ensures emergency calls are routed properly to the appropriate Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) based on the caller’s location. Key features include:

  • Real-time location tracking database
  • Automatic notification when an emergency call is in progress
  • No administrative effort is needed for moving phones/staff

Overall, the Cisco Emergency Responder enhances 9-1-1 emergency call functionality and compliance.

Understanding CVE-2023-20101

  • CVE-2023-20101
  • Description: Cisco Emergency Responder Static Credentials Vulnerability
  • CVSS Score: 9.8 CRITICAL
  • Vector: CVSS:3.1/AV:N/AC:L/PR:N/UI:N/S:U/C:H/I:H/A:H

The vulnerability exists due to the presence of static credentials for the root account that are included by default in Cisco Emergency Responder installations. Since these unchangeable credentials are essentially hardcoded into the system, an external attacker could potentially access them and easily login as root without requiring any authentication. This grants the attacker full control over the system.

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Cisco has confirmed that this vulnerability stems specifically from the root account having static credentials that cannot be altered or removed in Cisco Emergency Responder Release 12.5(1)SU4.

Cisco Emergency Responder Versions Affected by CVE-2023-20101

Cisco has stated that only Cisco Emergency Responder Release 12.5(1)SU4 is affected by CVE-2023-20101. Other releases including 12.5(1)SU5 and later are not impacted.

How to Fix CVE-2023-20101?

To resolve this critical vulnerability, Cisco has released patched versions of Cisco Emergency Responder software. Users should upgrade to the latest available release for their deployment:

  • For Cisco Emergency Responder Release 12.5(1)SU4, upgrade to 12.5(1)SU5 or later
  • Alternatively, upgrade to Cisco Emergency Responder Release 14 or later

Make sure to obtain the patched release through your normal Cisco support channels or contracts. As a best practice, customers should regularly check Cisco security advisories for any critical vulnerabilities in products they use.

Overall the key steps are to identify any vulnerable Cisco Emergency Responder installations and upgrade them to a fixed release as soon as possible to avoid potential compromise.

Bottom Line

CVE-2023-20101 represents a critical 9.8/10 severity vulnerability that allows remote unauthenticated root access due to static credentials in Cisco Emergency Responder. If exploited, this enables full system compromise. To mitigate this, users of Cisco Emergency Responder 12.5(1)SU4 should urgently upgrade to release 12.5(1)SU5 or later. Following Cisco security advisories and maintaining patched software is crucial for reducing security risk.


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