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MySQL.com breach leaves visitors exposed to malware

Rash of embarrassing open-source hacks spreads

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Hackers recently compromised the website hosting the open-source MySQL database management system and caused it to infect the PCs of visitors who used unpatched browsers and plug-ins, security researchers said.

MySQL.com was infected with mwjs159, website malware that often spreads when compromised machines are used to access restricted FTP clients servers, a blog post from Sucuri Security reported. The hack caused people visiting the site to be redirected to a site that attempted to install malware on visitors' computers using code from the Blackhole exploit kit, separate researchers from Armorize said.

“It exploits the visitor's browsing platform (the browser, the browser plugins like Adobe Flash, Adobe PDF, etc, Java, ...), and upon successful exploitation, permanently installs a piece of malware into the visitor's machine, without the visitor's knowledge,” Armorize researchers warned. “The visitor doesn't need to click or agree to anything; simply visiting mysql.com with a vulnerable browsing platform will result in an infection.”

Officials with the Oracle-owned MySQL didn't respond to email seeking comment for this post.

The reported breach is the latest to affect the distribution system for a widely used piece of open-source software. The kernel.org and Linux.com websites used to develop and distribute the Linux operating system remain inaccessible four weeks after it was infected with malware that gained root access, modified system software, and logged passwords and transactions of the people who used them. Representatives haven't said when they expect the sites to be operational again.

Other open-source projects that have been compromised in recent months include GNU Savannah, and Apache.org, which maintains the Apache webserver. Servers hosting the PHP programming language have also been compromised in the past.

Besides sullying the reputation of open-source software as more secure alternative to competing applications from Microsoft and other for-profit companies, the compromises have sparked concerns about the purity of the code the sites host. If attackers were able to secretly alter the code with backdoors, they could potentially surveil or gain control over sensitive networks that rely on the applications.

In the MySQL.com hack, the attackers appear to have aimed for the less ambitious goal of infecting the desktop machines of those who visited the site. At time of writing, just five of the top 44 antivirus providers were detecting the threat, according to this analysis from VirusTotal.

Sucuri speculated the site was infected after a MySQL developer was compromised and had his password stolen. ®

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