Suspect arrested in 5-year-old kernel.org breach

A computer programmer is accused of compromising several Linux Foundation servers in 2011

Five years after a security breach forced the Linux Foundation to take kernel.org offline and to rebuild several of its servers, police have arrested a suspect in the case.

Donald Ryan Austin, a 27-year-old computer programmer from El Portal, Florida, was arrested during a traffic stop on Aug. 28 based on a sealed indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of California in June.

Austin is charged with intentionally damaging four protected servers operated by the Linux Foundation and one of its members in 2011. More specifically, the programmer is accused to have installed rootkit and trojan software on the servers in order to steal the credentials of authorized users connecting to them via SSH (Secure Shell).

Austin allegedly accessed the servers using the credentials of a system administrator from the Linux Kernel Organization, a public benefit corporation in charge of distributing the Linux kernel and other open source software.

The indictment identifies the Linux Kernel Organization system administrator whose credentials were abused as J.H. but does not specify how the credentials were stolen in the first place.

J.H. might be John Hawley, known in the community as Warthog9, who at the time of the attack in 2011 was the kernel.org chief administrator. He was the one who announced the breach on the kernel.org users mailing list on Aug. 29, 2011.

The indictment also mentions a member of the Linux Foundation Technical Advisory Board whose personal email server was allegedly compromised by Austin. He is identified in the indictment as P.A. but is likely Linux developer Hans Peter Anvin, known in the Linux community as HPA. He is mentioned as the owner of one of the affected servers in Hawley's August 2011 announcement.

The affected Linux Foundation servers are identified in the indictment as Odin1, Zeus1, and Pub3, and the rootkit is named Phalanx. This information matches the details that were already publicly known about the breach.

The kernel.org website, home of the Linux kernel, was offline for over a month between late August and early October 2011 as the affected servers were rebuilt.

Austin appeared in a federal court in Miami on Monday and was released on bond Thursday. He is scheduled to appear in court for a new hearing in San Francisco, where the Linux Foundation is based, on Sept. 21. If convicted, he faces a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a fine of US$250,000.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?