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A number of research institutions and high performance computing hubs have come under attack with software miscreants performing "sophisticated" attacks on Solaris and Linux boxes.

Stanford University last week issued a notice about the assaults, posting a rich explanation of how the coders have cracked the Unix systems.

"An unknown attacker (or group) has compromised numerous multi-user Solaris and Linux computers on Stanford's campus using a variety of mechanisms," the notice said. "In most cases, the attacker gets access to a machine by cracking or sniffing passwords. Local user accounts are escalated to root privileges by triggering a variety of local exploits, including the do_brk() and mremap() exploits on Linux and the sadmind, arbitrary kernel loading modules and passwd vulnerabilities on Solaris."

Surprisingly, a Slashdot discussion about the attacks steered clear of Microsoft conspiracy theories. A plot to damage the good names of Solaris and Linux is not to blame for the attacks but rather poor patching policies. Fixes to block the attacks have been available for some time.

Stanford has urged admins to bring their systems up to date. ®

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