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Root kit surfaces after Jabber attack

Open source code jockeys urged to check code

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The Jabber Software Foundation (JSF) - the open source instant messaging organisation - has advised developers to check their code, after discovering that a hack attack against its website was more serious than first suspected.

An audit conducted on JSF's web servers after an intrusion two weeks ago revealed a root kit on a machine hosting both the jabber.org website and the JabberStudio service. Subsequent investigations revealed the machine (hades.jabber.org) had been compromised for more than a year. The affected machine has been rebuilt and fully locked down.

Dynamically generated pages were disabled on the site and the JabberStudio service was temporarily suspended as a precaution after JSF detected the January assault. JSF Executive Director Peter Saint-Andre said in a recent update that Jabber.org will restore its website to normal operation when it is satisfied that there is no security risk.

Developers are urged to validate their code as a precaution. However, evidence suggests that other servers in the jabber.org infrastructure (such as the production Jabber server or the mailing list server) were unaffected by the security breach. Neither does much mischief seem to have been perpetrated against the compromised server.

It's rare, but not unprecedented, for malicious hackers to load backdrops onto the web servers of application developers. Crackers owned the primary file servers of the GNU Project for five months in 2003, the Free Software Foundation admitted.

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 websites were again 0wn3d in an attack that went beyond the usual web page defacement. ®

Related stories

Jabber Inc frees IM add-ons
Jabber builds IM bridge to SMS chat rooms
Jabber Speaks
GNU servers owned by crackers for months

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