Security Experts:

Personal Information Possibly Stolen in Linux Australia Breach

Linux Australia revealed over the weekend that one of its servers was breached on March 22. The personal details of conference attendees might have been compromised in the incident.

The organization, which represents roughly 5,000 Australian users and developers of free and open source software, said the attack was discovered on March 24 after the source of numerous error reporting emails sent by a Conference Management (Zookeepr) hosting server was investigated.

The server in question hosted information on previous editions of the PyCon Australia and linux.conf.au conferences organized by Linux Australia.

An investigation has revealed that the malicious actor leveraged a currently unknown vulnerability to trigger a remote buffer overflow and gain root access to the server, said Joshua Hesketh, president of Linux Australia.

“A remote access tool was installed, and the server was rebooted to load this software into memory. A botnet command and control was subsequently installed and started,” Hesketh told Linux Australia members and conference attendees. “During the period the individual had access to the Zookeepr server, a number of Linux Australia's automated backup processes ran, which included the dumping of conference databases to disk.”

While there is no clear evidence that the attacker has stolen personal information, Linux Australia says the actions it has taken are based on this worst case scenario assumption.

If the malicious actors were after personal information, they could have stolen information provided by conference attendees at registration, including names, physical addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, and hashed passwords. Financial information is not at risk because a third party payment system is used.

“The payment processing process on the Zookeepr system was specifically designed to send minimal information to the payment gateway, and as a result only receive back a payment success or failure code. All other payment details are handled by the payment provider's systems. Therefore, credit card information was not disclosed,” Hesketh noted.

Linux Australia has taken steps ensure that the incident has been contained. The organization believes the attack was not targeted at its systems and that the malicious actor was not after information stored on the breached server.

Linux Australia has also taken measures to prevent such breaches from occurring in the future. A new, more secure host has been deployed, and system user accounts will be expired three months after the conference ends.

The compromised server stored information on the 2013, 2014 and 2015 editions of linux.conf.au, and the 2013 and 2014 editions of PyCon Australia. In order to ensure that attackers will not have access to too much information in case of another breach, from now on, linux.conf.au and PyCon Australia databases will be archived and stored on a separate server six months after the events end.

As a precaution, Linux Australia advises PyCon and linux.conf.au attendees to change their passwords if the same password has been used to register accounts on multiple websites.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.