Feeds

GNU servers ‘owned’ by crackers for months

Source code believed safe

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Reducing security risks from open source software

Crackers owned the primary file servers of the GNU Project from mid-March until two weeks ago, the Free Software Foundation admitted this week.

The attack raises concerns about whether malicious code could have been inserted in the software available for download, including some Linux applications.

However, evidence suggests no source code distributions were modified as a result of the attack. Current files have all been validated by the FSF, which oversees the GNU Project.

Nonetheless sites using software obtained from the compromised system are urged to verify the integrity of their distribution. FSF is providing software hashes to this end which can be found here.

The attack took place in March using a zero-day exploit, but was only discovered in late July. FSF replaced the compromised machine in early August.

In a statement, the FSF explained: "A root compromise and a Trojan horse were discovered on gnuftp.gnu.org, the FTP server of the GNU project. The machine appears to have been cracked in March 2003, but we only discovered the crack in the last week of July 2003. The modus operandi of the cracker shows that (s)he was interested primarily in using gnuftp to collect passwords and as a launching point to attack other machines."

"It appears that the machine was cracked using a ptrace exploit by a local user immediately after the exploit was posted," it added.

Evidence found on the compromised machine indicates that gnuftp was cracked during the week between the release of the ptrace bug, a root-shell exploit, and the time a working fix for the Linux-kernel was available a week later.

The FSF have tightened up security defences since the attack. Local shell access to the FTP server for GNU maintainers has been withdrawn pending completion of its certification activities.

Security clearing house CERT has also issued an advisory on the attack.

It far from the first time crackers have broken into the web servers of software developers. In May 2001, infamous cracker Fluffy Bunny bragged that he had compromised the systems of the Apache project.

In October 2000, Microsoft's systems were comprehensively compromised by a cracker using the QAZ Trojan. Weeks later Microsoft's core web sites were again 0wn3d in an attack that went beyond the usual Web page defacement. ®

Related Stories

Cowboy cracker nails Apache
Fluffi Bunni nabbed at InfoSec
Microsoft hacker fired
Microsoft hacked again
Microsoft Hack: Warned of weakness three months earlier
How you hack into Microsoft: A step by step guide
MS hacked! Russian mafia swipes WinME source?

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Microsoft: You NEED bad passwords and should re-use them a lot
Dirty QWERTY a perfect P@ssword1 for garbage websites
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
NUDE SNAPS AGENCY: NSA bods love 'showing off your saucy selfies'
Swapping other people's sexts is a fringe benefit, says Snowden
Own a Cisco modem or wireless gateway? It might be owned by someone else, too
Remote code exec in HTTP server hands kit to bad guys
British data cops: We need greater powers and more money
You want data butt kicking, we need bigger boots - ICO
Crooks fling banking Trojan at Japanese smut site fans
Wait - they're doing online banking with an unpatched Windows PC?
NIST told to grow a pair and kick NSA to the curb
Lrn2crypto, oversight panel tells US govt's algorithm bods
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.