Linux Australia, the open source body behind the linux.conf.au shindigs, has revealed hackers may have stolen the database it uses to manage its annual conferences.
Linux Australia president Joshua Hesketh disclosed the breach in a mailing list on the weekend, explaining that the hacker ‘dumped’ its conference database to a disk, potentially disclosing personal information of conference registrants.
On March 22 hackers breached and planted malware on the server hosting Zookeepr, the conference management system that Linux Australia used for linux.conf.au in 2013, 2014 and 2015, as well as PyCon Australia 2013 and 2014.
The dumps included past attendees’ first and last names, physical and email addresses, phone contacts, and a hashed version of the user password.
According to Hesketh, the database dumps didn’t contain credit card or banking details since Zookeepr uses a third party credit card payment gateway for credit card processing.
Hesketh hasn’t said how many people may have been affected however addressed the disclosure to all Linux Australia members and conference attendees. The organisation represents 5,000 free and open source software developers and users.
Linux Australia is working on the assumption that the hacker has stolen the database.
“Whilst there is no indication that personal information was removed from the server, the logical course of action is that we operate on a worst case situation, and proceed on the belief that this has occurred,” said Hesketh.
It also looks like the hacker used a zero-day flaw to breach its Zookeepr, which may mean other organisations using the system may be vulnerable to a similar attack. Zookeepr was developed initially for linux.conf.au but is now available to other conference organisers.
“It is the assessment of Linux Australia that the individual utilised a currently unknown vulnerability to trigger a remote buffer overflow and gain root level access to the server,” said Hesketh.
The hacker then installed a remote access tool as well as a botnet command and control. The database dumps occurred while Linux Australia’s automated backup processes were running.
In Linux Australia’s opinion, however, the attack on Zookeepr was not targeted and was not an attempt to steal details from the system.
Given the prevalence of password re-use, Linux Australia is recommending that past registrants change their passwords on other web services if they used the same password. This includes Mozilla Persona accounts if they used that for authentication.
According to Hesketh, the breach was discovered after the Zookeepr hosting server began sending a large number of error reporting emails on March 22. Linux Australia discovered the breach two days later.
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