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The story around the Linode hack (straylig.ht)
357 points by foofoobar on May 7, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 169 comments



Here's an attempt at an explanation/translation:

HTP ("Hack The Planet") is a group that likes to break into things. Another (unnamed) group of people impersonated a third group of people ("ac1db1tch3z") and tried to cause trouble for HTP.

The impersonators located HTP by examining one of HTP's botnets (a collection of compromised computers that are used to launch things like denial of service attacks). Botnets have to receive instructions (e.g., targets to attack) from somewhere, so it's likely that the impersonators followed the path taken by commands to the botnet, and found the network(s) that HTP uses to organize themselves.

HTP realized this, and wanted to get back at the impersonators. They found out that the impersonators used an IRC channel (chat room) hosted on a network called SwiftIRC. If HTP could break into SwiftIRC (which is hosted on Linode), they could cause all sorts of trouble for the impersonators. So HTP decided to break into Linode, so they could break into SwiftIRC, so they could break into the group of impersonators.

To break into Linode, HTP broke into their domain name registar (name.com). They planned to secretly take control of linode.com, and replace it with a version of linode.com would look and feel and work correctly, but had one additional feature -- it would collect the login information that people typed in. HTP probably hoped to gain the login for SwiftIRC directly, or collect the logins for Linode admins and obtain SwiftIRC's login from there.

But, before they enacted the domain takeover (a maneuver that would likely be somewhat difficult to employ without being noticed), an HTP member discovered a new vulnerability in ColdFusion, the server software used by Linode. The ability to discover a new exploit on demand implies a high level of skill within the group. Using this exploit, HTP obtained direct access to Linode. They proceeded to gain access to SwiftIRC, as well as other sites hosted on Linode, including a well-known security site, nmap.org

The FBI apparently had a mole in HTP, and they alerted Linode that HTP had access to nmap.org. This posed a bit of a problem for HTP: if it became public knowledge that they had obtained access to Linode, then perhaps they wouldn't have time to go after the impersonators using their newfound access to SwiftIRC. So, HTP tried to strong-arm Linode into staying quiet until May 1st. HTP had obtained the customer information and credit cards of all the Linode customers. HTP threatened to widely publish all this sensitive information if Linode didn't stay quiet. If Linode complied, then HTP would just delete all the info.

Linode, though, was forced by the FBI to announce that they'd been broken into. HTP told Linode to just publicly acknowledge that HTP was the group that broke into Linode, and they'd delete the sensitive info. Linode did so (https://blog.linode.com/2013/04/16/security-incident-update/).

HTP conducted an internal investigation to determine which group member(s) were working with the FBI. HTP broke into the mole's computer and turned on their webcam, and saw an FBI employee looking over the shoulder of the mole. They kicked the mole out of the group, so the FBI doesn't have access to HTP anymore.

(Remember, this is the story according to HTP.)


> tried to cause trouble for HTP.

Here's hoping the FBI "causes trouble" for the lot of them. Breaking into other people's stuff is not cool. If I leave my door open by mistake, yes, that makes me a bit absent minded, or foolish, but it does not give anyone the right to wander into my house.


Everyone bitching about HTP or AnonOps or any other hacking group that likes bragging should at least be thankful that they talk about their hacks. I would bet that the crime syndicates have better hacks and keep their mouths shut about them. Those vulnerabilities don't get patched, those customers never get notified. I am not defending HTP or the like, just saying, at least they boast.


I worry more about governments than organized crime these days.


Yep, them too, don't tell anyone about their hacks.

(I mean, "More about governments than organized crime? There's a difference?")


You should pay a visit to Sicily or Naples if you don't think there's a difference.


And I hope none of us ever pay a visit to Guantanamo.

But seriously, yeah, of course there's a difference, but government is also often in league with organized crime, from local levels of corrupt cops and drug leaders, to international levels of the CIA and arms traders and 'our' 'freedom fighers' -- I bet this is also true in Sicily and Naples, that many parts of the government act in league with organized crime.

But yeah, to go back to the actual topic/thread, mainly, I think the guy is right that the government is the other main actor which is going to keep it's security exploits to itself, and just use them to monitor you silently. (And that's probably more likely in the US than any other country on the planet, at the moment).


I'd generally prefer government to organized crime, but would probably take the Yakuza over NK or Belarus or wherever.


So you're comparing what might be the "best" of something in one category with some of the dregs in another.

Italy is not known for having particularly good politicians or government, but I'd take the government here any day over the Mafia or Camorra. Despite any romanticized movies you may have seen, those guys are pretty cold-blooded SOB's. Recently, a man was shot dead waiting to pick his son up from pre-school in Naples.


You mean, how much did the 'mole' see/hear/do before getting booted from HTP?


No, that's not what I mean. What I mean are things like the Chinese government hacking Google and the New York Times, not HTP hacking some IRC provider for revenge.


Let me be more clear. You mean, like employees or contractors under the direction of the FBI hacking sites, at least Linode, while 'investigating' HTP?


Honestly, the two are very often synonymous.


Yep. Knowing various people who have done security work for banks and similar organisations, I've heard a few hair-raising stories.

They never ever disclose when they get hacked. And they do get hacked.


I'm afraid your analogy is stretched a little too far for me - that your open door leading to someone physically wandering into your personal living space is the same as some corporation with tens of millions of revenue a year that has some script kiddie sitting in his mom's basement seeing some Linode stuff come onto his screen. I guess when I think of some kid snooping around some corporation's computers, I'm supposed to compose a mental image of some thug physically invading my own home. Yes, I can see why corporations want people to think this way, but it's a rather silly metaphor as far as I'm concerned.


Actually, these guys cost people a whole hell of a lot more time and money than someone breaking into a home probably ever did. Just for starters:

http://blog.phusion.nl/2013/05/07/phusion-server-security-re...


Well then you are not a hacker. And I hope FBI can not cause trouble for them, they did not do anything unethical in my POV. The server is not a house. Black hat hacking is a mixture of art and politics (I never support hackers who hack for stealing money), and if you want the analogy, they just spotted a fancy lock on the door of some institution (not a private house), lock-picked it and looked what's behind the doors. This may be illegal, but this is the way they can confront the forces they don't like and outline their position. They did not brake or delete anything (no vandalism).


Please give me the password to your regular email account so I can read your emails. I won't delete any of them, but your email server is not a house, and I should have the right to read your emails.


A right? I didn't say they have a right. They hacked into. Did the US/Israel have a _right_ to use Stuxnet against Iran? No. They hacked into. When did you accuse the US secret service or hope that they will be punished? Double standards?

I won't give my email or its password to you, but if you can find it, hack it and decrypt my emails, then it would be only my fault, and you will have my respect.


You're not getting it. No one is saying that Stuxnet was "right". That conversation is set in an entirely different context than the Linode hack. Iran is seeking to produce a nuclear weapon with the openly stated goal of launching it against another country. There is no segue from Stuxnet to this Linode hack.

"Fault" is not in question here either. Let's say I leave my front door unlocked. If you enter my home without my permission, you have trespassed and can be charged with a crime. The only thing I would be "at fault" for is making a lackluster attempt at securing my home. I don't forfeit protection from trespass under the law for that act though.

You see, locks are not what govern access; laws are. HTP is clearly in the wrong here. They forced entry in to Linode's systems, then attempted to extort Linode in an effort to achieve their goals. Swap out Linode's servers for Linode's offices, and there's no question that HTP are operating outside the boundaries of ethical behavior.


I admit Stuxnet was a bad analogy to black hat hacking. But either is the analogy of hacking into a server and physically trespassing into a private property.

The main goal of my comments is to object to the opinion that hacking is somewhat comparable to physical break and enter actions. This is an age where one can find himself in prison for tens of years for hacking and getting access to information (the prospects of Aaron) or even for IP violations, as it were a murder or rape.

Being in an underground hackers crew is much fun and possibilities to learn things for young men who are smart and different than their friends. Those guys and gals are the future top-class engineers at Google and other IT giants and I want them to continue hacking and growing personally and professionally, not rotting in the prison.


You keep getting buried because you've hitched your wagon to the wrong horse. Your core argument seems to be that punishment for hacking is often disproportionate to the crime committed.

For example, poorly written laws make even simple port scanning a risky activity. I agree that this is ridiculous, but you needn't defend HTP here in order to take that position. If anything, HTP are to blame for the overreaction from policy makers. They are having a very difficult time distinguishing between mischief and mayhem.

The law should take context in to account. If you were caught exploring an old, abandoned warehouse, you might end up with a misdemeanor trespass charge (hopefully), but if you're caught probing a corporate server, the current climate seems to dictate that you'll land a felony in short order. You've got groups like HTP to thank for that because of their extortion activities and willingness to leverage the well being of innocent people in their trivial games.


> Being in an underground hackers crew is much fun and possibilities to learn things for young men who are smart and different than their friends. Those guys and gals are the future top-class engineers at Google and other IT giants and I want them to continue hacking and growing personally and professionally, not rotting in the prison.

Or the next members of the many criminal syndicates on the internet who steal/harass/blackmail with little regard of the consequences.


Offtopic, but have you got a source for "Iran is seeking to produce a nuclear weapon with the openly stated goal of launching it against another country."

I had a quick look on the Wikipedia page but couldn't see anything there.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_program_of_Iran


This is the world stage, so objectivity is hard to find, but there is a substantial amount of posturing from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that shows a pretty aggressive stance toward Israel, if not open contempt [1].

That's really besides the point though. Anyone who seeks to boil "right and wrong" down to a simple principle that applies in all cases is holding simplicity above practicality. "Simple principles" are no more sustainable than utopian ideologies. The reality is that right and wrong are subtle and contextual. Bringing Stuxnet in to the Linode discussion is just an effort to sidetrack the topic.

Any way you slice it, HTP has dragged "innocents" in to the fight. It's not right when governments do it on the world stage. It's not right when thugs and gangsters do it by terrorizing neighborhoods with gang violence. It's not right when crackers do it during their internet turf battles.

1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmoud_Ahmadinejad_and_Israel


I do see you point about the inferred goals of Iran, it's just the statement "openly stated goal" is untrue and I think it's important to be accurate about these things where we can be.

I certainly agree with you about the actions of HTP being unethical.


That statement is untrue. Among journalists I know of, the one who has studied this the most and reported on it in the most detail is Gareth Porter.


> I won't give my email or its password to you, but if you can find it, hack it and decrypt my emails, then it would be only my fault, and you will have my respect.

Ah yes, the "might makes right" philosophy that we all know and admire from primary school.


Not everybody believes in rights, per se. He did put scare underscores around the word. Just saying, if you believe your position to be the moral high ground, you shouldn't need to mischaracterize the positions of others.


Did you honestly just use militarized cyberwarfare as an example of legitimate black hat?

The US/Israel are involved in a proxy war with Iran that involves cyberwarfare, clandestine operations and conventional military strikes (in the case of Israel striking Iranian-sourced Syrian weaponry).

It's an extremely poor example to use open cyberwarfare between nations engaged in everything but overt warfare to attempt to legitimize black hat hacking.


I'm curious how you would classify China's crack teams engaging in industrial espionage. Is that black hat activity, or legitimate cyberwarfare by a nation-state?


I think criley's point is that if your activities closely resemble international warfare, they probably aren't "legitimate" by any reasonable standards.


after re-reading it, you do appear to be correct. Thanks for the correction.


"spotted a fancy lock on the door of some institution (not a private house), lock-picked it and looked what's behind the doors."

And then collected private information of everybody who works for or is a customer of the institution, and then threatened the owners of the institution if they spoke out about what had happened.


If they spoke out within two weeks. That's not very long. Hell, you can take down sites for two weeks just by filing a DMCA notice.


I kinda get where you are coming from. I'm guessing you like the idea of sticking it to the man, as it were. Well, yeah, I like that too, I tend to lean to wards what these guys do, when it suits, but as ever, the problem is with intention and trust. Do you really trust them 100% to only look? The same people who do that could raid my current account, and none of us can be sure they wont. Or, sell on details to raise funds for their "great" works, or cynically line their pockets. We just don't know.

I think quite a number of people tread this fine line between approving of sort of Robin Hood types and criminals. And that can change given the target. So, "fantastic" if they embarrass the FBI, not so comfortable if its our bank.


If they only "looked" it would not be too bad, but they did much more here. They threatened to release credit card numbers, user names, emails and passwords of customers. Do you think it's fair that someone's personal information is released just because they are customers of Linode?


Why bother reading novels or watch thriller movies when there are comments like this? :)


That helped a lot, thank you.


This translation makes more sense. If this is all true, this is a great story and I want to make a movie out of this. Also, who cares that Linode got hacked. Facebook/Twitter have more information on you than Linode, and they share it with the Gov. The only thing that I wouldn't want is my data to be lost (if i didn't have any backups)

Just a personal opinion.


lol i think this story can be filmed.


There is a lot of inside-baseball in this, but the one they keep talking about, is, "shred customer data" - as in,

" Recognizing their situation, we instead told them that if they acknowledged HTP in their analysis, we'd go ahead and shred their customer data anyway."

Do they honestly, for a single second, think that any LEA, corporation, or, well, anyone would believe that once the information was compromised, that there was no putting the genie back in the bottle? Also - I suspect there are probably disclosure laws that had to be followed by Linode anyways.


What choice did they have?

Comply, and trust the honor of black hat hackers?

Or refuse, and have customers' data appearing on FTP and torrent sites within the day?

As a Linode customer, I would rather them choose the latter. Not to try and sweep the incident under the rug (to your point about disclosure) but to prevent the data from being scraped by groups who exist solely for extracting credit card details from releases by groups like HTP (note the reference to "carders" in the article) and then being sold.

(According to Linode's own post, the CC data were encrypted, meaning that it should be intractable to actually extract usable CC numbers from the data. But why would Linode not accept those terms, even if they believed that HTP were lying? At least it would give them until 1 May to get their house in order.)


The ColdFusion hack...wow. How is CF engineered so badly? What person nowadays would still think to take paths of anything at all ever in the request parameters? I can sort of understand pre 2003 or something, but CF10 was released in 2012, for Pete's sakes.

Also makes you wonder, if there are holes like this, how many more holes like this are there? Especially if this is a pattern across the system.


There is a bunch of holes in CF like this. Look at their bug/security fix list for Coldfusion (Pretty much any version), and half of the security fixes are targeted to CFIDE based vulnerabilities. Any CF admin worth their salt disallows access to CFIDE as a matter of course.


Definitely worth reading the full zine, some scary stuff in there (including very readable python LFI-based exploits for unpatched MoinMoin and ColdFusion).

Highlights: 1900+ days uptime on a sparc box somewhere in sourceforge.net, root on ICANN, root on Debian repositories..


Link to full zine: http://straylig.ht/zines/HTP5/


Any chance someone saved a copy? Link seems dead from here


I've seen longer uptimes on Solaris sparc boxes, many times, when they had a board of battery replaced and they booted up with a reset clock which got corrected by NTP after boot.


Some hopefully-helpful clarifications of the inside baseball talk from just the overview (I haven't read the full zine), enhanced with inside and general knowledge I've gained in my travels on this mortal coil:

- HTP claims to have{, had} access to name.com, which Linode currently uses. This access enables an unauthorized party to update authoritative nameservers for your domain; i.e., if you host at Amazon, very likely your authoritative nameservers are Route 53 on your account. HTP would not have access to modify the zone directly through the registrar and would instead have to hijack the entire domain with a working, completely-transferred zone on their own nameservers. For this to go down entirely unnoticed is extraordinarily difficult. I won't say impossible, but damned close without a copy of the zone in hand and with Linode running AXFR disabled (you should be too). There are subzones of linode.com; they wouldn't have gotten them all, and it would have been noticed within minutes.

- In order to attack SwiftIRC, to get back at some script kiddies DoS attacking them after their last release (because you know, that's a good target to burn registrar access on and all), HTP decided to backdoor SwiftIRC via their nameservers which are hosted at Linode. That's not the same as the registrar nameservers discussed above, but is instead the DNS data actually stored on a Linode on SwiftIRC's account. They do not hint what they were going to do with it once they had hijacked the nameservers, and I will not theorize. I could guess, though.

- Before utilizing their registrar access (from the first bullet point) to hijack the linode.com zone and intercept manager logins silently by redirecting traffic via DNS -- also fairly difficult to pull off without a good linode.com certificate in hand, in terms of keeping the TLS session non-suspicious to a browser -- they instead discovered a zero-day in ColdFusion (Linode's stack) and got in that way. That's much quieter and much more likely to not be noticed. If we take the FBI's actions at HTP's word, the FBI was the only reason Linode was made aware of this outside of HTP's control; a DNS hijack would have been immediately noticed by Linode administrators.

- Knowing what I know (let's leave it at that), a successful exploit on Linode's ColdFusion stack entails a database of Linodes, DNS, credit cards, e-mails, addresses, and keys to decrypt the actual card numbers, and a lot more data. You have to decide whether to take HTP at their word that they deleted credit cards. Consider your credit card and all prior credit cards compromised if it were in the system before April.

- The access that HTP obtained does not, full stop, lead to root on Linode instances without at least one shutdown job or change of root password job showing up in your Linode's history that you did not ask for. Your Linode's root password is not stored in any Linode system aside from on your Linode itself. Your LISH password, as they say, is, and according to them is stored in plaintext; if you see things on your Linode's console (located under the Remote Access tab) that you did not type, that access was used upon you. If not, it wasn't. If you used the same root password on your Linode that you did for your LISH password, consider that password compromised. I'm suspicious of the claim that they rooted all those (assuming) customers without any of them noticing their Linode being rebooted to apply the new root password to allow HTP in, and I would read that as "potential access" instead of "access". They probably bounced some nmap.org servers to reset their root passwords -- a Linode system requirement -- without fyodor noticing. Which is interesting for a couple reasons.

- Also, the access they obtained does not lead to root on the Linode host fleet itself, unless they are holding back some extra access they obtained such as a shared password between the ColdFusion stack and administrator credentials for Linode systems, which I consider unlikely for a couple reasons. With several days to get familiar with the architecture, HTP could have used their database write access to do things on the hosts, but it's a fairly limited set of things. Dumping Linode's database is bad, but root on their hosts is far, far worse, and by indications, I don't think they got it.

- How does this relate to the Bitcoin hacks of yesteryear, you ask? The Bitcoin hackers probably got in the exact same way -- Linode hinted at a compromised admin credential, which is close enough to do everything HTP was able to do -- then shut down and reset root passwords on the Bitcoin Linodes they were after, which then gave them filesystem access.

So ends clarifications, thus begins conclusions:

- PAY ATTENTION WHEN YOUR SERVERS ARE REBOOTED WITHOUT YOUR COMMAND.

- PAY ATTENTION WHEN YOUR SERVERS ARE REBOOTED WITHOUT YOUR COMMAND.

- Linode added a feature that shoots you an e-mail when your Linode is manipulated in any way via jobs, such as resetting your Linode's root password (a la Bitcoin/HTP hacks). It's depressing they had to do this, but pay attention if you get the mail. External monitoring like Nagios that pages you when your server goes down is also a good idea, as long as it is hosted at another provider.

- EDIT: After reading the zine, yet again, /CFIDE is the vector. There's no excuse for not hiding your administrative tools, generally the soft underbelly of the whole smash, from the Internet. None. It's one rewrite in nginx. Match /CFIDE<anything> from the public, redirect to /. Done.

- EDIT: Again, after looking at how trivial the exploit was, it's probably time to reconsider using Adobe ColdFusion from a business continuity standpoint. Half Linode's fault for not hiding /CFIDE, half Adobe's fault for the engineering missteps that lead to this capability for a remote attacker. We should be just as hard on ColdFusion as we are on Rails.

- SwiftIRC is a den of inquity, up there with EFnet; if you run a hosting provider, think twice about permitting SwiftIRC anywhere near you. To reiterate that, Linode was a casualty of someone going after SwiftIRC. Delink their nodes, cancel them, and kick them to the curb if you're interested in preserving your business. Not worth the money. Same with damned near all the IRC networks except OFTC and, to a far lesser extent, Freenode. There will always be targets but harboring SwiftIRC is probably a malicious-actor magnet.

- Registrars (and CAs, though that's outside this discussion) are the weak point in the entire system. This is not the first time they have been shown to be so. Linode could be Fort Knox of digital security but if name.com falls over, it's all over; that's entirely outside of Linode's, and your, control. Currently, the registrar market is heavily profit-centric and, personally, I think people spend far too little on a domain in the general case. I would happily pay a registrar a lot more money -- hundreds a year or more -- if their offering were run competently, as it is fairly obvious name.com isn't. Compare your hosting bill to your registrar bill; what's wrong with that picture?

- HTP is apparently fairly easy to troll into using valuable access for vengeance purposes. Shameful target selection and a burn of a good hack just to root SwiftIRC. That's like pissing in the ocean for a good time.

- Linode got railroaded here and the general reaction by folks is a little overdone. You know that's true when even the hackers' overview of the hack specifically calls out people bitching about Linode security on Twitter. All it takes is one zero-day, and you will all be hit by one in your career, so cut Linode a little slack.


> - Linode got railroaded here and the general reaction by folks is a little overdone. You know that's true when even the hackers' overview of the hack specifically calls out people bitching about Linode security on Twitter. All it takes is one zero-day, and you will all be hit by one in your career, so cut Linode a little slack.

Unfortunately, there's not much slack left to cut. Linode pulled that line taught with the last major breach of their system (and their subsequent opaque response).

It's clear Linode's security practices leave a _lot_ to be desired, and their response to this incident, while better than the last, didn't go anywhere near far enough in terms of transparency (as well as demonstrating some fundamental gaps in their understanding of the current state of infosec).


Agreed. The one thing I think Linode could do better is communicate. The secrecy model is ... odd.


I didn't pull my hosting from Linode because they got hacked, I pulled it because they were hiding this from me. I even went as far as replacing the card I used to pay them and dealing with the massive headache of updating payment info with a new card number because I didn't know if I could trust their assertion that CC numbers didn't get released.

If I can't trust you at your word, you no longer have the privilege of holding my data or my CC info. Two breeches with a lack of communication really does spoil overnight the trust that has been built up over years of wonderful and reliable service.


I'm curious to know who you moved away to? and what gave you the confidence that they are a) better at security b) better at communicating transparently when things go wrong.

This security incident is very upsetting, but for me the linode track record in communication, responsiveness and support is still pretty amazing compared to the competition. At least at this price range.

AWS might be safer, but I basically don't get any support (for a reasonable price like I pay linode), Rackspace didn't seem nearly as responsive or transparent on much more trivial matters. Who else is out there which is worth switching to?

(I'm not being sarcastic, I'm genuinely curious)


I have found lots of the smaller VPS providers (especially those that provided dedicated/colo services) to have great service. Check on http://webhostingtalk.com

I fail to understand how you can think Linode has a great track record. It is an unequivocal disgrace. TWICE they have mislead their own customers over a major security incident. And there have been lots of times during outages (in particular my time at Fremont) where they were MIA.


I give Linode a lot of slack. When people say "Oh, they should be more secure" I often say "Really?"

In an ideal world, yes, they should be more secure. However, as in this case, they got taken advantage of via a zero-day attack, with others planned well outside the scope of what Linode could have planned for. Which is insane. Can you even name something, anything that they could have done to protect themselves? Additionally, given the unique form of attack, figuring out what was going wrong was probably not possible. Thus, they knew as little as you did.

And then, everybody switches to some other provider. But do they switch to "super secure, we examine every byte of the software that we run to make sure we're bullet proof" hosting provider? NO, everyone just switches to another commodity VPS provider that is vulnerable to all the same super high level attacks that Linode is vulnerable (maybe even more attacks, given that Linode actually has a tremendous amount of experience).

In reality, you're only getting more security by switching to a less prominent hosting provider, A.K.A. security through obscurity. Which is the worst kind of security because it's not secure at all.

It's like getting mad at the mayor of your city when a meteor falls on your house: unproductive and misguided.


While what you say has merit, Linode's actions demonstrate an ambivalence toward security. Public key encryption for card numbers (yay!). The private key stored on the same machine and the key loaded in memory (boo!). ColdFusion was not properly secured (simply preventing access to /CFIDE would have neutralized this vector) and they focused first on preserving themselves. I've also been personally annoyed when there are sweeping outages and information is withheld for seemingly arbitrary reasons. Support is apparently instructed to be vague. It's overwhelmingly frustrating.

I'm just as annoyed at Amazon for this, to be honest, and in the large, annoyed at our industry for being so unnecessarily secretive. We need to stop thinking of our infrastructure as our competitive advantage; to pick on Google as an example, while Google are obviously masters of running systems at scale, their infrastructure efficiency is not the reason people choose Gmail. Obviously their platform gives them some competitive advantage but, for example, their policy of withholding even the innocuous names of internal systems is bizarre. I think the rest of the industry follows that lead.

It's weird that we embrace openness in the FLOSS communities but when it's time to build a revenue-making company, the details of the inner workings are immediately a hush-hush secret. If you're doing something simple enough that describing it means someone can replicate it, it's an idea that can be replicated trivially anyway. I bet everybody in hosting knows how Linode works, and I doubt there's any kind of espionage taking place.

In this case, it's fine to be secretive if you'd like, but at least tell me how you plan to prevent the problem from recurring. Linode always says "we're working diligently to prevent this from happening again" but provides no details whatever. The announcement from the founder of Linode[1] underlines this; the entire tone of the post is "here's how we band-aided the immediate problem," with no details on where they go from here as a business or culture.


I tend to agree with you. We don't see much transparency in the industry as a whole.

When a security incident happens, I believe most security professionals would advise to keep details to the minimum necessary. I can imagine how misleading info can cause panic and dire consequences (to both linode and its customers). In Linode's case this could have been mandated by the FBI even, giving Linode no choice.

For me, linode is still one of the more transparent providers out there. I doubt AWS or any other provider would be more forthcoming if something similar happens.

Of course, there's a lot of security improvements to be made. I hope Linode would shake-up and improve and signs are they're doing that.

I'm still curious to hear some brand names that are better in that respect (hence my question about). From what I read there really is no better alternative currently at this price range.


I moved away to me. I enjoyed having my test server in a data center so I could work on it from anywhere, but it wasn't worth risking a security breech where no one would tell me I had been compromised. Instead, now I somewhat inconveniently host it on a machine sitting in my basement.

I'm merely a hobbyist/researcher, so I don't have a production environment to worry about.


I see. For me this is unfortunately not an option.

I need to be able to serve my customers, and they are all over the world. So I need a provider with data centers in multiple global locations, that offers an API, that has decent support that responds quickly, and at a similar price range... Interested to find alternatives that are also more secure and better at communication.


> The access that HTP obtained does not, full stop, lead to root on Linode instances without at least one shutdown job or change of root password job showing up in your Linode's history that you did not ask for.

If they had access to the database, it may have been possible to delete malicious jobs from people's histories. Even if the user had email notifications turned on, an attacker with full access to the database could have turned it off temporarily (just flip a boolean flag).


That's a good point and I hadn't considered it. It still reboots your Linode, though; worth considering a 'echo "I just rebooted! Did you expect that?" | mail' in your rc.local for this reason, since a reboot should be an infrequent event.


yeah, but will likely reboot it into recovery mode so they can remove anything like that from your boot sequence anyway, and if they don't notice it, they will be done by the time it goes out anyway. External monitoring is the best way to notice the node went down.


I already upvoted this but wanted to take the extra time to say thanks for your post.

This whole thing really makes me wonder how many hacks and deals behind the scenes are going unnoticed.


> For this to go down entirely unnoticed is extraordinarily difficult. I won't say impossible, but damned close without a copy of the zone in hand and with Linode running AXFR disabled (you should be too). There are subzones of linode.com; they wouldn't have gotten them all, and it would have been noticed within minutes.

what's stopping the bad guys from just proxying dns queries they don't care about to the original NS?

with this sort of trickery you could get a "domain control validated" https certificate too!


Hence why I hedged impossibility, and while I can think of a way that would work, it'd be tricky. You could probably hack BIND to do this (in resolver mode) fairly trivially, but I'll defer to the actual security experts here of which there are many to shed light on whether such an attack is commonly observed in the wild.

My usual suspicion is that in general, the volume of DNS traffic should give you pause before you start putting custom code in the path of answering a query. Clearly it's possible -- Route 53 is built upon that very notion -- and I suppose in this scenario it's feasible.

Don't forget every Linode has a hostname under linode.com. I think splicing yourself in and running a conditional on every query would overwhelm whatever you point the firehose at and you'd have to plan accordingly. All it would take would be to add a couple hundred milliseconds of latency to the average DNS query (even before the inevitable carpetbombing of p99 latency) and a competent high-traffic administrator is going to start looking around.


DNS is very compact (a few hundred bytes a query), you're talking about maybe 10mbit of traffic tops: not a hard problem these days


It's not about size, it's about rate and introducing latency. Just the hijack itself is going to add DNS latency, which is monitored by any competent operations team. Expert operations teams, and I know of one, also monitor the BGP path to their public addresses (including nameservers) to detect things like the Youtube kerfluffle.

Adding a conditional ("do I answer or do I proxy?") on every DNS query -- and there are many -- is going to introduce enough latency to be noticed unless you throw a lot of gear at it. And you're still going to introduce latency by inserting another hop. That's my point, though I do agree with you.


>Adding a conditional ("do I answer or do I proxy?") on every DNS query -- and there are many -- is going to introduce enough latency to be noticed unless you throw a lot of gear at it. And you're still going to introduce latency by inserting another hop. That's my point, though I do agree with you.

Welcome to the world of recursive name servers, there is a lot of software out there that does exactly what you just mentioned, I fail to see what would be hard about making this change.


Adding a conditional ("do I answer or do I proxy?") on every DNS query -- and there are many -- is going to introduce enough latency to be noticed unless you throw a lot of gear at it.

Hm, why? Any modern CPU is blazingly fast. Writing it in Ruby probably wouldn't be smart, but Python + PyPI or Lua + LuaJIT would easily get within a factor of 10x of C.


I didn't say it would be technically impossible, I said it would be noticed. If you make it a theoretical problem, and it most certainly isn't (there are a lot more practicalities involved), you're adding at least another string compare to every query. That's enough of a latency shift for me to notice in my graphs -- I notice when the Internet reroutes itself and my DNS latency goes up by 5 milliseconds.

This isn't a "could it be done?" exercise, it's more of a "could it be done without detection?" exercise. For this specific case, it's a pretty big risk.


I wasn't speaking theoretically. I don't understand how a pipe read + string compare + pipe write would add 5ms per query.

As for detection, that was the reason I brought up CPU power. Modern CPUs are so fast that that it seems like this redirector would hardly generate a blip in any chart (such as top).

I don't care about proving anybody wrong. I care about filling my knowledge gaps. I.e. it's interesting to try to figure out how something like this would be detected in practice.


You'd be using network sockets, not pipes (pipes are slow as fuck btw). And it would add the latency of the network transmission in both directions, plus the processing time, which would add up to much more than 5ms unless you're on the same network segment as your target. And higher CPU load increases latency.

Who is going to notice increased latency in DNS queries? Most likely web developers. Nobody else I can think of would do (non-cached) bulk DNS queries to random domains and actually be looking for millisecond changes in lookup time. And those developers would have no insight to the DNS infrastructure serving requests, so they'd have no idea to contact the DNS admins to investigate. Even the DNS admins could be fooled before they contact network admins to do further research.

The bottom line is not "has DNS latency changed?", it's "has DNS latency become unacceptably high enough to force me investigate?" Unless it's becoming a problem, I think anyone would ignore increased latency because they have ten other work tasks to deal with.


> Unless it's becoming a problem, I think anyone would ignore increased latency because they have ten other work tasks to deal with.

You'd be surprised once you start working with larger, higher-traffic infrastructures. If our average external DNS query rises 200ms, my phone goes off. There's more slack on p99, but it's also monitored.

All of the timings for the various parts of a request to the system that I administer are instrumented from a small libcurl app running in multiple ASNs remotely, because Pingdom and other services do not provide the resolution that we need. They are then rendered on a stacked graph that always lives on my third monitor, and any significant deviation averaged out over five minutes catches my eye.

I know it sounds like overkill, but it's crucial at scale.


That monitoring sounds awesome. What is it? Is it available to the public? Which method do you use to graph the data?


You monitor your DNS latency, but you don't monitor your delegations?


Okay, so, when you notice your DNS latency going up by 5ms... how much investigation do you then do to confirm exactly what caused this, and have a very high confidence (how high?) of ruling out it being caused by a MitM on the DNS? Really?


Without getting too far into specific operational security -- the same reason that I hate there's an entire branch off my thread discussing this specific attack, which I think is detrimental to the discussion -- we have monitoring in place to tell me if this exact attack happens. Within seconds. The latency would just be a clue.

Think about the dumbest way you would do that. Then implement it. That's how simple our system is.


hell, you could run it on linode and probably be right next to the box you're proxying... ;)


>with this sort of trickery you could get a "domain control validated" https certificate too!

I don't understand why HSTS didn't allow some sort of pinning, or the ability to specify a certain kind flag in the certificate is required (like EV).


"because you know, that's a good target to burn registrar access on and all"

No, nearly ideal use. Its like a strategic nuclear weapon. You don't use it sneakily, that's the opposite of the whole point. Always intimidate as publicly as possible and in the tech community messing with linode is about as public as it gets.

The other part is showing off, its like declaring "we have access to them all but we don't care about name.com". Maybe they do...


They didn't utilize the access to go after Linode. They intended to utilize it to go after SwiftIRC, which nobody gives a shit about. That's where my comments came from. Linode just happened to be a nice prize on the way.


Yeah, I mean, it's supposed to come off as showing off, right? "Sure, we're so crazy good, that we can take out name.com and linode just cause some script kiddies pissed us off, no sweat. Don't mess with us. And we're so in it for the lulz, that' SURE we'd take out linode and name.com just to get some script kiddies, and not bother trying to sell the CCs or anything."

Or, they're lying. I mean, they could be lying about the whole damn story, who knows (not me).


You hit the nail on the head right here.

Assuming the account is completely true though, I would say they succeeded in showing off. It's pretty impressive that they took over name.com and discovered a CF 0-day just to get into Linode, all just to fuck with one IRC network no one cares about.


Thanks for the overview.

> All it takes is one zero-day, and you will all be hit by one in your career, so cut Linode a little slack.

Actually, the biggest lesson I'm taking away from this is to never trust any one piece of software, and to always have multiple lines of defense/alerting sitting on independent software stacks.


> The access that HTP obtained does not, full stop, lead to root on Linode instances without at least one shutdown job or change of root password job showing up in your Linode's history that you did not ask for. ... the access they obtained does not lead to root on the Linode host fleet itself

I wouldn't bet on that.

> There will always be targets but harboring SwiftIRC is probably a malicious-actor magnet.

Isn't that the same logic Everydns/Dyn Inc. used when they censored Wikileaks?

> All it takes is one zero-day, and you will all be hit by one in your career, so cut Linode a little slack.

True dat.


> I wouldn't bet on that.

I don't need to wager, and can speak with authority based on what I know (which I'd prefer to leave vague). There are two vectors into a Linode's filesystem from the perspective of an internal attacker: having root on the Xen host or gaining a login on the Linode. Knocking over the database and Web server gives you neither unless the person reused their account's password as their root password, in which case it's behind a cryptographic hash and subject to the typical rules there. If you own the database, you do have LISH access which gives you the equivalent of a VGA console; if someone left that console logged in, it's a vector as well.

The only vector HTP would have had in the general case would be bouncing the Linode. It's a fairly sufficient air gap, in a way.


Thanks for the clarification.

ISTR being able to back up Linode images, migrate them around, and perform some other admin tasks from the web interface. So I still wonder if the "air gap" API is a bit more powerful than simply the ability to request a reboot. But, again, I don't know.


Those buttons just instruct the hosts to do things and don't actually have power themselves.


The buttons belie the existence of an API that can "instruct the hosts to do things". Some of those "things" are pretty powerful.

Without knowing what those things are, I'll just take your word for it that none of them could ever possibly be leveraged to compromise a host or guest without unmaskable and permanent messages appearing in the logs.


You have to decide whether to take HTP at their word that they deleted credit cards.

Don't we also have to take them at their word that they even had decrypted CC's? I haven't seen any proof yet that they obtained the decrypted private key, just their statement saying they grabbed in-memory keys.


If they pwned the server that accepted the HTTP(S) POST with the payment information, they were in a position to obtain at least some CC numbers. They were probably also in a position to obtain the keys by which the CCs were encrypted.


The encryption keys are useless. The decryption keys are what's important. You do have a point that they could have theoretically intercepted HTTP(S) POSTs, but I don't think anyone's claimed that they actually did that.


They were using asymmetric crypto on their CC data column?


Yes. Linode publicly stated that they were using public-key cryptography, that the private key was secured with some crazy-long passphrase, and that the passphrase wasn't stored digitally, meaning that once a month when they billed they had to manually enter the private key.

So for the hackers to get the decrypted private key, then either Linode must have royally screwed up and kept the decrypted key in-memory during the rest of the month (which seems rather unlikely), or the hackers must have had control of the machine during the time in which they did billing (which I don't think is true, because billing presumably happens either at the start or the end of the month, and didn't the hack take place a bit earlier than that?).

So yeah, I believe them when they said they got the private key. But nobody's said anything to convince me that they got the _decrypted_ private key. And if the passphrase really is as long and complex as Linode claims, then it should be reasonably secure (caveat: I am not a security researcher, or otherwise qualified to judge the security of anything).


> So for the hackers to get the decrypted private key, then either Linode must have royally screwed up and kept the decrypted key in-memory during the rest of the month (which seems rather unlikely),

They bill you the moment you add a Linode, automatically, if your credit is not sufficient to cover the new Linode. Careful walking that assumption too far; I think it's safe to say the key was kept in memory.


Well it's not like it originally comes in encrypted with the public key, it has to be on there for a short amount of time already, why would they keep the unencrypted version around longer than the initial billing?


OK, I remember reading that now.

Good move on their part.


re: your first paragraph, there is a way to jack an entire DNS record and not miss anything. It involves writing a custom DNS server. Once you become the primary, as the queries come in, if you are queried for a record that you don't know, you simply forward the query to the old primary and then store it yourself. Works all the time.

Domains are jacked and proxied a lot more than people know. The hackers have custom tools (rather than Squid + BIND etc.) that perform these tasks and keep them hidden.

Even better, you could host spoofed DNS for a number of Linode's on a single small 128-256MB virtual machine. The infrastructure required is tiny. Definitely possible, definitely happens all the time.


It bugs me that apparently, everything I'll ever host can just be "owned" at will by some random bunch of hackers doing whatever they feel like doing. Is it feasible for a "mere mortal" to stay safe?


User input is trying to kill you until proven otherwise. And even then, it probably still is. If you accept anything from a user, treat it like you're carrying spent nuclear fuel around your application; that doesn't just mean form inputs, either; sometimes you have to wear gloves that even consider files read from the filesystem as suspicious. There are numerous attacks on temporary files if implemented incorrectly.

Damned near every exploitable security problem in an application can be traced back to this one simple rule. XSS is a common one. The ones that don't conform to the rule are rare and magical, like unicorns, and usually involve something exotic like hardware side channels. If you take input it will be abused, so plan accordingly. That occasionally manifests in unexpected ways like timing attacks, in which case an attacker repeatedly sends you lots of carefully-chosen input to deduce something based on how long it takes your code to reply, much like cracking a safe. It's a basic attack on a string compare, which is O(n). This simple code is vulnerable:

    def price_multiplier(form):
        if form.input == 'super-sekrit-coupon-code':
            print >>browser, "100% discount applied!"
            return Decimal('0.0')
        print >>browser, "Sorry, that's an invalid coupon!"
        return Decimal('1.0')
A timing attack would try to deduce each letter here, since the string comparison will short-circuit once it finds a wrong character. Using a simplistic model, say I sent 'a' through 'z'; 's' took 10 time units to respond, but the other characters took 8. Now I try 'sa' through 'sz', and go from there. As a thought exercise, try to imagine a few ways to prevent it, and consider the pros and cons of each; now you're thinking in the security mindset.

Securing an infrastructure is another story, but the rule is applicable with the occasional clarification to everything there, too. There are domains of trust even within your own organization; malicious employees will try to harm you, as well, and you get little to no warning of those. Do your interns need root on machines containing customer data? Employees are users too.


Well, it's somewhat comforting to know it's mostly about user input. Thanks! Not that it's easy to secure input handling either.

I've seen that kind of timing attack discussed somewhere, and the solution there was to do some kind of byte-by-byte comparison that would always take the same amount of time. It makes sense.


Security is about mitigating risk, not about eliminating it.

Keep up with CVE's, don't provide a wide attack area (so lock down interfaces to your machine and don't expose much to the world), and keep blast radii as small as possible (so even if your machine does get owned, you can possibly restrict it so it doesn't automatically mean they gain access to other systems in your network.)

Oh, and model the threats to your network/application. Make sure you're securing against the right threat. As an example, anti-malware is wholly ineffective against social engineering - maybe it's more productive to train employees and make sure that each employee doesn't have total access to all privileged systems.


If you've redelegated a domain which you don't have a full copy of to your own servers, couldn't you just proxy all the requests that you don't want to hijack to the original name servers?


To save vertical space, I'll refer you here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5667471


I don't give a shit about my (former) linode servers and never want to have anything to do with the bastards again.

I just want to know one thing: did or didn't they leak the credit cards?


> I just want to know one thing: did or didn't they leak the credit cards?

Does it really matter? If your card was used with Linode, it should have been blocked by now anyway.


Yes, because it is a huge pain to go through for no reason.


Allegedly no, the deleted the breached data on the condition that Linode mention them in the security release (from the article).


Not publicly, as far as I know. They claim to have deleted them, but I don't think it's exactly possible to prove you've deleted every copy of digital data. You should probably assume they're compromised.


I... don't actually understand most of what they wrote there.


There's more info about HTP5, including working mirrors of the files linked at the end of the linode document here: http://straylig.ht/zines/HTP5/


HTP5 stands for Hack The Planet 5, the fifth issue of the zine linked in the parent comment.


Looking at the hash found in the query HTP ran, 9gag's name.com password was "harry1" at the time of the exploit. It also tells us name.com stores the passwords as unsalted MySQL 4.1 PASSWORD() hashes...


What I want to know is, what kind of hacker uses hard tabs in their zero day python script.


You can have my hard tabs when you pry them from my cold, dead, RSI-crippled hands.

:)


It's fairly well-coded too, which makes it even stranger.


Hackers are [in general] shittier coders than a Windows server admin.


Yeah, dogs are shittier cats than .... cats.


I am not familiar with the crackers' terms. So does this mean that name.com is not safe? All my domains are there...


The point is, when you're dealing with people of this level of supposed skill, they can just walk into pretty much any network. They're all vulnerable on some level if you're capable of actually breaking them yourself in novel ways.

The only real solution is either to not depend on any single network, or to make it clear that you will simply kill anyone who troubles you. Or just remain innocuous enough that nobody will care to.


They had skilz, no doubt, but it does not appear the CF hack was the zen apex of hacking. It was a well known exploit you could drive a truck through. Writing Stuxnet, now that was mad skilz.


Looking around there doesn't seem to be any news on a breach at name.com, official or un-official (aside from this of course).

It does have me worried however.


That seems somewhat scary if they've compromised domain registrars and are intercepting login data from client sites that way.


It's more scary if they've compromised a SSL CA. A simple DNS attack won't stop your browser from displaying a broken certificate warning. (Though they can always not redirect from http to https and most users won't notice, sadly.)


it's very easy to get your own https cert once you control the dns for a domain, you just set up own nameserver that proxies requests to the original NS (except very specific ones, say those from Verisign), request your "domain control validation" https cert, and bam! valid https cert!


A 'simple' DNS attack would get them access to the mail servers too.

There are plenty of CAs out there who will give out a (non-EV) cert to anyone who can receive emails to webmaster@example.com.


[deleted]


It said "not redirect from http to https" -- meaning that when someone requests http://example.com they would normally be redirected by the site owner to https://example.com, but the attacker could just leave the original request alone. The point is that most people wouldn't notice.

HTTPS Everywhere or similar browser plugin would probably pop up an alert if this did happen.


HTTP Strict Transport Security[1] is designed specifically to prevent that attack. Unfortunately, Linode's manager doesn't seem to use it:

    $ curl -I https://manager.linode.com/
    HTTP/1.1 200 OK
    Server: nginx/0.7.65
    Date: Tue, 07 May 2013 16:23:07 GMT
    Content-Type: text/html;charset=UTF-8
    Connection: keep-alive
    Vary: Accept-Encoding
If they were, there would be a line like this:

    $ curl -sI https://github.com | fgrep Strict
    Strict-Transport-Security: max-age=2592000
Which tells the browser, for the next 2592000 seconds (30 days), only request github.com over HTTPS, never HTTP.

Not sure why Linode isn't using HSTS — lack of awareness? The super-old version of Nginx is also a little scary.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTP_Strict_Transport_Security


Nginx 0.7.65 is packaged by Ubuntu for 10.04 LTS. Should still get security updates.


Anyone care to speculate how likely this account is to be true?


The only question I'm really interested in...

And Linode isn't saying anything new


Some of their claims seem a bit far-fetched. Hacking name.com, Xinnet, MelbourneIT, and Moniker? That would be huge. Why haven't we heard more from them?

> We identified which users on HTP were involved with the FBI, and promptly gained access to one of their cams.

Not sure what they mean here. FBI camera? User's laptop camera? Either way this also seems far-fetched.

If everything they said was actually true it's very impressive.


Not so far fetched. They've posted hack logs of MelbourneIT, name.com, and Moniker in the same zine.


They claim to have accessed the mole's webcam. That's not very far-fetched at all.


So Much Drama in the HTP


It's kinda hard bein' L I N O D E


I can't think of a better classification for a terrorist than people who sit around all day working to destroy credibility of corporations and expose personal and financial information for the sake of their own fucked up moral code and amusement.

It would be nice if we had internet role models. IRC is full of low-life degenerates who perpetuate the vitriol that reinforces this way of life as an acceptable pastime. If there were well respected hackers who spoke publicly against this kind of behavior it might make some people think twice. (Unfortunately, most well respected hackers used to be these kids before they got real jobs)

HN is full of individuals who try to take the high road, versus the kind of anonymous internet idiocy that exists in nearly every forum and chatroom. I love this about HN. I wish more of the internet took it as an example.


>I can't think of a better classification for a terrorist than

Really? You can't think of a terrorist definition that uses, you know terror to coerce people into doing things? While you may not like these guys, labeling it "terrorism" is counterproductive. If you stretch terrorism to include anything that involves the potential for someone to feel fear about anything, you can classify nearly everything as terrorism.


IRC is a communication medium. Could we please not vilify it? It's like saying people who use burner phones are bad people.


It's also a machine that generates dumbed-down conversation. The natural slant on IRC is away from intelligent discourse and toward a cross between texting and one-line jokes with friends. There's nothing inherently wrong with this. But it does foster negativity much of the time.

I know hundreds of people who dedicate their lives to the drama and bullshit that is spawned solely by being in an IRC channel. If it went away, these people might just find something productive or positive to do with their lives.


Yeah... I think you're hanging out with stupid people a bit overmuch.

You can say the same thing about SMS, Facebook, Twitter, IM in general, email in general, MUDs and MMOs, telephones, telegraphs...

Should all those go away, too?


The natural slant on IRC is away from intelligent discourse and toward a cross between texting and one-line jokes with friends.

What? I could name 20 channels of the top of my head this is not true for.


tech-oriented channels? Care to name any?


Tech oriented indeed. You know, all of the Open source IRC channels on Freenode are a good start.

IRC is nothing like you've described, at least to me.


IRC is nothing like you've described

User hderms didn't describe them, I did. And I can show you hundreds of thousands of channels like I describe, on most popular IRC networks (Freenode is a tiny network in comparison).

Also, I challenge you to show me proof of intelligent discourse in any Freenode channel. It's simply not easy, especially in a channel with 5 or more active participants in conversations. Try taking your time to make intelligent points and either people get bored with you or your points get lost in the scrollback.



I think contributors to the many open software projects that both you and I depend on, that use IRC as a first class collaboration tool would strongly disagree with this point of view. I certainly do.


The more I think about it, the more similar these sorts of groups seem to inner-city gangs. Otherwise good kids get caught up in the wrong environment, find acceptance within a peer group, and then become seduced by the intoxicating taste of power over others. As someone who engaged in my fair share of computerized mischief as a teenager, I can understand how a kid could fall into that trap. As someone who's pulled all-nighters to re-install/recover servers from attacks -- because you can never really trust your systems again, otherwise -- I don't think even the "non-profit" attackers realize the harm they cause.

If someone has a beef with society, there are plenty of honest and constructive ways of "sticking it to the man" without resorting to violating people's property.


> If someone has a beef with society, there are plenty of honest and constructive ways of "sticking it to the man" without resorting to violating people's property.

People say this all the time, but always fail to give examples of what sort of activities they think would be a constructive alternative. Would you mind sharing what you envision as alternative activities?


When it's a battle for the hearts and minds of people, human suffering is your only concern. The more pain you inflict the less likely you will win.

(R)evolution is not looking at what is wrong, it's looking at what is working. Study the leaders of successful change movements of the past. Most talked about what they wanted (but might not have existed yet), rather than what they didn't want (i.e. "I have a dream" not "I have a nightmare"). Then share that vision with the world. Change begins with a vision of a better and different world. Inspire people to want to move closer to that world. Share your ideas with others. Learn to express yourself through the arts. Form a band. Start blogging. Become a filmmaker. Learn to program and make an app or service that helps people. Build a business that embodies this new world you want to see. Be the change you want to see, said Gandhi.

If you don't yet have a vision for a better and different world, start by asking yourself these questions: "What am I passionate about?" "What's broken with my world?" "What gets me angry or really worked up?" "What are some of my earliest memories of experiencing pure joy as a child?" "What’s the most important thing I know?"

Creating a vision for a better world, sharing that vision with as many people who will listen, and then acting on that vision is the best way I know how to "stick it to the man."

Here's some quotes to help inspire you:

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - Richard Buckminster Fuller

"People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouth" --Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution Of Everyday Life

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. --George Bernard Shaw

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. --Marianne Williamson

“Let me say, with the risk of appearing ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by strong feelings of love. Above all, always be capable of feeling any injustice committed against anyone anywhere in the world.” --Che Guevara

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. --Margaret Mead

“Almost everything--all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure--these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” - Steve Jobs

"When people focus on the value they provide to others, they take their eyes off their own insecurities." --Dave Navarro

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced” --Vincent Van Gogh

"An entrepreneur is someone who, almost artistically, designs a living entity which embodies the values, beliefs, and ambitions of the creator." --Jake Lodwick

"It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power." -- Alan Cohen


Slightly OT, Is it possible to have a web application (using popular tech like RoR, PHP etc.) that cannot be cracked by anyone ?


Generally you don't need 95% of the stuff that's running. Use the bare minimum. Compile the server you're using, say Nginx, from source with only the bare minimum of options and modules you need. Disable all the services/ports and then selectively enable the ones you need.

Best of all, don't have anything worth stealing. Don't keep the credit cards on your servers, parrot them through a vendor. Don't keep user credentials on your system, us OAuth, Fb or Google auth. If you've got nothing valuable to steal, they'll likely not break in.

But then again, if the Fed's want in, they'll just pull your box from the rack. Don't forget that you can literally freeze a DIMM and dump it and all the encryption keys to another mobo. So, as is the CIA's policy, if you don't want anyone to know something, don't let it touch a computer. ;)


You can monitor exploit sites, but zero days are always possible and what will lead to serious hacks like this. So no, you can never be sure.

The best thing is to keep your eye on the culture of the developers and how seriously they take security - for instance the Ruby on Rails developers ignored exploits/reports until people blew them wide open. Now, if some other hacker had known about that before the disclosure, they could have owned any RoR sites.

From my experience, Django seems to be the best, and has not had any unfixed vulnerabilities for a while (though, due to it's complexity, it's completely possible that 0days exist). However, if I'm running Django sites and some do get owned, I can tell my boss/client/self/whatever that I did everything possible to prevent it happening.

There is no such thing as 100% secure, however, it's fairly reasonable to be hardened to all but the most dedicated crackers.

With an attack like HTP's, there's no fucking way anyone could have been expected to prevent, without running their entire own infrastructure, because they owned registras, Linode's LISH shell (so they get near-physical access to your Linode), and various other crap. If your boss were to fire you for getting owned in this attack, despite it preeetty much being zero of your own fault, they would be in the wrong (unless you have the resources to not depend on anyone).


No. Even if you could write a 'secure' RoR app, at some point the RoR framework becomes the weakest link. ( Or the Linux kernel, or the door of the datacenter.) And more general, security implies always a certain attack scenario, a strong password does not help against stolen hardware and a nuclear bunker does not help against a zero day. On the other hand, you can be quite secure against a plausible attacker, that is a attacker who is not willing to blow zero days against your personal blog. ( Or im general is not willing to spend a lot more than he can gain in the attack.)


The question is not if it can't be cracked, but who will be able to crack it. If a security analyst will be able to break it you should not worry that much as long as you adhere to good practices, but if a person without the proper knowledge will be able to break it, because it's a trivial vulnerability (ex. SQL injection via GET parameters), you should be really, really worried, because it means that something is wrong and it should be fixed soon.


It's ultimately unknowable but I think it's possible to have a very secure system. You just have to take a holistic approach and look at everything in the stack from top to bottom, keep on top of security updates and use the right security procedures. After all that you'll still never know whether it's secure or not...


Only if the server is switched off and disconnected from the network.


Ha :) I guessed so .. It is impossible to make an un-crackable system .. not sure if that is a good thing or bad ...


Every lock has a key. ~Hacker's motto


i'll never understand why way back in the day, someone thought that it would be a good idea to put all the scripts for the extension tags (like cfform) under the same parent directory (CFIDE) as the administrator.


These kind of hacks improving the world. Thanks for to the hacks (not for stealing CCs or usernames) that they showed up again there is no f.cking security in the world.


First mistake: using Coldfusion. Second mistake: keeping it.


Nobody remembers the Linode bitcoin "hack" where it was assumed by bitcointalk that an admin was looting accounts? Im surprised anybody still uses them.


It's discussed elsewhere in this thread, and bitcointalk assumed incorrectly.


The site appears to be down now, so...

http://pastie.org/private/xedrpvi9lbcfwnz7wvb1a


This story can make a movie


and today name.com emailed customers admitting they'd been pwned.


The ability for "hackers" to thrive is a necessary price to pay to secure our rights on the Internet. Trading freedom for security pays nothing, and never will. Let the FBI work their asses off to try to bust these people.




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