Cables give Cisco switches the boot

Forget Spygate -- Catalyst connector flaw is the exhumed travesty of the week

The New England Patriots Spygate scandal isn’t the only foible that’s resurfacing after years in dormancy. Two blogs this week posted amusing stories about a Cisco design flaw from 2013 that, if one isn’t careful, could take down the network.

The flaw is in a cable connector with a protective boot to keep a user from accidently releasing or breaking the latching tab. But if this cable is attached to port 1 on 48-port Catalyst 3650 and 3850 switches, it will hit the reset button right above the port and bring the switch – and network – to its knees. The startup configuration will be erased and the switch will reboot because of the boot.

Cisco actually issued a field notice two years ago on the design flaw and recommended affected users either use a different cable, disable the Express Setup mode that’s triggered when the button is pressed, or break off the protective boot! Maybe that’s what Cisco product quality assurance testers did when they tested the product before shipment – if they tested it.

Cisco has some of the brightest engineering minds in the world so it’s a certainty they were distracted by other anomalies in making sure the switches were modeled to their exacting standards for enterprise deployment. Well, they missed a non-technical biggie.

So if your cable boot boots your network offline, just follow this slightly altered advice from a Taylor Swift song and “Break it off! Break it off!”

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