Linux Group's Servers Hacked

Servers belonging to the open source Debian Project, which makes a version of the Linux operating system, were hacked last week, according both to statements posted by project organizers on the group's Web page and to a European CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) Web site on Friday.

Four servers that host the project's bug tracking system, mailing lists, and various Web pages were compromised on Thursday. However, the intrusions do not affect a software update for the Debian Linux operating system that was released Friday, according to statements from Debian.

The intrusions forced the group to take the precautions of suspending e-mail service for developers through the debian.org domain and locking user accounts on other machines used by project developers, according to information posted on the Web site of project member Wichert Akkerman.

Content from compromised servers was verified using server log files and digital signatures, and was moved to different machines, according to information on Akkerman's site.

Cleaning Up

Debian Project developers were told to assume that their passwords to debian.org were compromised. Access to debian.org machines will be locked until project members have cleaned all affected machines, Akkerman's site said.

Project members were also told to check for intrusions on any machine that they logged on to from a debian.org machine, to update user and administrator passwords on those machines, and to get new SSH (Secure Shell) keys for conducting secure communications between machines, according to a post on Akkerman's Web site.

Despite the intrusions, a new point release for Debian GNU/Linux 3.0--release 3.0r2--was not affected by the compromise and is safe to install. The release contains security updates and bug fixes to the most recent release, according to Debian.

Debian is a free version of the Linux operating system that combines an operating system built on the Linux kernel with software tools from the GNU project, another open source software project. The software is maintained by a worldwide community of volunteer developers, along with donations of money, services, and equipment.

Similar Story

This is just the latest security breach of a well-known open source software group. In August, the Free Software Foundation, sponsors of the GNU free software project, said that a server housing the group's Linux software was broken into by a malicious hacker.

In that attack, intruders compromised an FTP server that housed software making up the core of the Free Software Foundation's GNU/Linux operating system, including the GNU C language library and compiler, as well as other software utilities.

Complete cleanup of the Debian Project's machines following last Thursday's intrusion will take until Wednesday, after which the group will provide more details about the compromise and the steps it will take to prevent future intrusions, according to information on Akkerman's Web site.

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon