The Great Linux Mint Heist: the Aftermath
In a shocking move, cyber criminals recently hacked the Linux Mint Web server and used it to launch an attack against the popular distro's user base.
The hackers managed to alter the official Linux Mint Web site to point to an infected ISO image. The infected image contains a valid installation of Linux Mint 17.3 Cinnamon edition, along with the Tsunami IRC backdoor. The backdoor allows the cyber criminals to access the unsuspecting user's system, steal data and gain control over the software and hardware.
The hack occurred on the night of the 20th of February and was detected the next day. Any users who downloaded and installed Linux Mint 17.3 Cinnamon edition during that period are at risk. Users who installed Mint before or after that date are not at risk.
The Mint team responded by taking the site down while they worked to patch the hole. They worked for more than a week to make their Web servers much more secure. This involved isolating the specific weaknesses that allowed the attack and hardening their system against future abuses.
The Tsunami backdoor, which was installed on the infected ISO image, is usually used by attackers to launch distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDOS). These attacks use infected machines to flood Web servers with malicious traffic, preventing legitimate users from accessing services.
But Tsunami has other darker uses too. It provides access to the local filesystem and any sensitive information that may be installed on the computer.
The attack was made possible by a weakness in the WordPress blog used on the official Mint site. This weakness gave the attackers root access to the Web server. They used this to alter public files on the site, pointing a download link to a malicious FTP site in Bulgaria. Unsuspecting users would assume the link was valid, as it was posted on an official Web site.
Now that the official Linux Mint Web site has been fixed, the offending links are gone. Moving forward, the Mint team is working to improve the security of the installation process, so users can verify that they have downloaded a legitimate ISO before installing it.
In one sense, an increase in attacks against desktop Linux systems is to be expected. As the user base grows, Linux distros become a more tempting target to cyber criminals. That means users can't afford to be complacent and assume that "malware affects only Windows".
Users have to take every precaution to keep their systems up to date and secure. Distributors have to crack down on security weaknesses and make it harder to exploit Linux systems. And, everyone has to work together to respond to the inevitable attacks that will occur.
In spite of the attacks, Linux Mint is still a great choice for the security-conscious. As with any software, it's important for users and developers to remember to be cautious and practice good security.
Practical Task Scheduling Deployment
July 20, 2016 12:00 pm CDT
One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
Cron traditionally has been considered another such a tool for job scheduling, but is it enough? This webinar considers that very question. The first part builds on a previous Geek Guide, Beyond Cron, and briefly describes how to know when it might be time to consider upgrading your job scheduling infrastructure. The second part presents an actual planning and implementation framework.
Join Linux Journal's Mike Diehl and Pat Cameron of Help Systems.
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With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
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