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I'm glad to see that this information has now been publicly disclosed. In July 2015, we suffered a compromise at PagerDuty via the Linode Manager. I hope that we can provide a bit more of an official in-depth post-mortem of our compromise, but I'd be happy to disclose some of the details here.

Using the access gained within the Linode Manager, the attacker reset the root password on a few systems, and used Lish to gain root access. We were alerted to this activity and fully revoked the attacker's access within 60 minutes of the first node being compromised. Working with Linode support, we discovered which user account was being used and completely deactivated the user. We also isolated the VMs, and performed forensics on read-only copies of their disk images.

In our situation the attacker knew one of our user's passwords and MFA secret. This allowed them to provide valid authentication credentials for an account in the Linode Manager. It's worth noting that all of our active user accounts had two-factor authentication enabled. An interesting data point was that the user who had their account compromised was no longer in possession of the MFA secret themselves. Their cell phone had been reset (thus deleting all data) 8 months prior. The user could not log in to the Linode Manager if they wanted, so it was our determination that the key could not have been obtained from the user and was more likely on Linode's side.

We also have evidence from access logs provided by Linode that the attackers tried to authenticate as an ex-employee, whose username ONLY existed in the Linode database. It was absolutely unique and was not used elsewhere by the employee making the username an accidental honeypot. This was another piece of data supporting that Linode was the source of our compromise.

We immediately reached out to them not only to inform them of their compromise, but to assist them in investigating it. We were confident that the Linode database had been breached, and that the secret key used to encrypt information in the database had been compromised as well.

In addition to reaching out to Linode, we also worked with a third-party security firm to audit our work done during the incident. Likewise, around the same time we reached out to law enforcement to assist in investigating the attack. I believe our public disclosure includes this information[1]. This was in the middle of July 2015.

We did not get confirmation in July that there was a breach of the Linode Manager or any associated credentials.

In the end, we migrated away from Linode because of this breach (even before it was publicly disclosed) in Aug 2015. We also never were able to confidently disclose that Linode was the vector due to lack of confirmation from their end. While all of us who responded to the incident were confident they were the source, we now thankfully have the data to confirm it.

[1] https://www.pagerduty.com/blog/july-2015-security-announceme...




That's incredibly poor handling by linode, it also quite possibly resulted in many other systems being compromised via the same route or a similar one in the meantime.


Saw your tweet (https://twitter.com/theckman/status/684484772316360705) that linked to this post. Did a quick search to get your technical background and your LinkedIn profile states you used to work for Linode? I think it's important to share that info when you're telling your side of the incident. Your past relationship, if you left on bad terms, could play a role in your motivation to post.


I can absolutely understand your concern. I originally had it in my post, but removed it because I was worried it would detract from the details of our compromise at PagerDuty.

I worked at Linode for just under three years, and worked on quite a few different things there. I started on support and moved on to a development role (including writing ColdFusion). I left Linode on good terms. California is much more enticing than NJ, so I wanted to relocate. Plus I was interested in doing more of an Ops role, instead of working including customer-facing web applications. I'm still enjoying it. :)

I think there are lessons that can be learned whenever a company has some sort of security incident. This is especially true if they are willing to publicly disclose details of the incident. We've wanted to provide what limited information we had, but wanted to wait until we had confirmation that Linode was the vector.

While there is some relief in finally determining what we believe to be the vector of our attack, it's very unfortunate that Linode engineers are dealing with the fallout right now.


so you're saying you wrote the code that was responsible for the breach(es)? It also sounds like you knew about these issues before you left Linode but didn't point them out while you were there?


Where are you reading this? When he says he was writing ColdFusion, he's referring to the framework/programming language. He's not saying he wrote every single line of Linode's management interface.


I had almost exactly the same situation in 2013.

I honestly don't understand why anyone would be stupid enough to use Linode.

They continue to (a) have incidents and (b) fail to disclose them in a timely and transparent manner.


Yikes...This comment has me seriously thinking about moving my VPS elsewhere. Thanks for spreading this information, this is definitely good to know.


Isn't this like the third Linode hack? Back in 2012 one of their cust tools was compromised in order to steal bitcoins. In 2013, cc# and password hashes were compromised, Linode denied it until the hackers showed proof, then did a piss poor job of handling it afterwards.

Why were people still using Linode after their poor handling in the 2013 hack?


Nice writeup.

Keeping logins of ex-employees on 3rd party systems is a no-no though I admit full removal might pose some hurdles.


To clarify, we did not leave the users enabled in the Linode Manager. When you delete a Linode user, Linode shadow deletes them in the DB by setting an inactive date on the row.

The honeypot user would not have been able to access the account had the credentials been valid, but based on the information given by Linode we did see someone attempt to log in as that user only once around the time of the compromise.


Thanks for the clarification. Makes more sense now.


I'm curious what kind of losses you've seen since your own data breach. I'm sorry but you have far too many plausible ulterior motives for taking the position that you are taking.

1) As someone else pointed out, you're an ex-employee of Linode. You went out of your way to hide this fact. I'll refrain from listing all of the very obvious reasons why your word on Linode should be taken with a grain of salt at the very least.

2) Being able to blame Linode for your own data breach is a fantastically easy (although lazy) way to pacify customers about the fact that their personal data was just pilfered by someone on your watch.

All that being said, what have you presented that can be proven? All that can be proven is that you're an ex Linode employee. Everything else is hot air that we're all meant to take your word. Tons of appeal to authority in your explanations. You keep invoking some mysterious third party "expert" security group who conveniently agrees with everything your own company "discovered." If you were actually confident in your own abilities and that of your team members, there wouldn't be an immediate appeal following every attempted assertion.

Plus, even if you really did hire someone, what company isn't going to just say "yes" and agree to whatever PR campaign their customer is saying while dumping wheelbarrows of cash into their pockets? Frankly I don't believe you, and I find your consistent drumming against Linode to be highly suspicious in the wake of these attacks. You're not involved, are you?

The Linode post you're referring to is just saying that they expired everyone's passwords. That's not admitting anything, especially not admitting anything about a separate incident from a year ago. What lawyer would ever take this and say "okay, you can legally publicly blame linode now?" No lawyer worth his salt. In other words, you're full of shit. Your story if full of holes, tells, and I think you should stop posting so much garbage before you're on the receiving end of a lawsuit or are considered a suspect.


Are you Jesse Nicholson? Is Linode paying you to write this? This reads like a Linode executive wrote it. That's the kind of thing you should disclose. Your only two HN comments are regarding Linode; pretty suspicious. You also commented on their blog post:

TechnikEmpire January 6th, 2016 at 10:28 pm. It's hilarious watching all of these armchair experts criticize Linode for the actions of another.

PagerDuty and WP Engine were both compromised 'inexplicably' during the same timeframe at the same hosting provider. Seems pretty self explanatory. Linode didn't disclose their "security firm" so why should PagerDuty? Linode couldn't explain how accounts were accessed and it isn't the first time! Linode is hacked once a year; it's a feature. They need to get their shit together and stop pretending security is a game.




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