Linux kernel.org Hacker Arrested After Traffic Stop


So it seems the alleged kernel.org hacker has finally been caught, kinda by accident after being stopped for a traffic violation. It was quite a high profile hack, especially in the open source community as anyone downloading kernel files during that period could have theoretically been compromised.

Linux kernel.org Hacker Arrested After Traffic Stop

It’s unlikely the kernel code was actually tampered with due to the hashes for each file being distributed widely, but still – it had people rumbled.

A man who allegedly hacked the Linux Kernel Organization’s kernel.org and the Linux Foundation’s servers has been collared by cops.

Donald Ryan Austin, 27, of El Portal, Florida, will appear in court in San Francisco later this month. He is accused of four counts of “intentional transmission causing damage to a protected computer.” The charges were filed in absentia against Austin.

It is alleged his hacking spree forced the two Linux groups to shut down completely to clean up a malware infection. Austin was stopped on Thursday this week by police in Miami Shores for a traffic offense – and was arrested when he identified himself.

Court documents [PDF] claim that in 2011, Austin managed to steal the credentials of one of the Linux server admins and used these to install the Phalanx malware, a self-injecting kernel rootkit designed for the Linux 2.6 branch that hides files, processes and sockets and includes tools for sniffing a TTY program.


It’s still a pretty hardcore compromise though the reasons for it never seem to have surfaced, nor the in-depth post-mortem kernel.org folks promised to publish.

It’s also a little odd such a technical compromise used off the shelf tools that could easily be detected and identified (Phalanx and Ebury).

Using Phalanx, he is also accused of installing the Ebury trojan, which is designed for Linux, FreeBSD or Solaris hacking, onto numerous servers run by the groups. This harvested login credentials of people using the servers and forwarded them to the attacker.

Austin’s goal, according to the prosecution, was to “gain access to the software distributed through the www.kernel.org website,” presumably to tamper with it. He is also accused of leaving messages on the system for others to find, and of hacking the personal email server of one member of the Linux Foundation.

Some of the Linux servers were offline for almost a month, while administrators picked over files to make sure that the attacker hadn’t left any more nasty surprises in there. It took over five years of sleuthing to find out who could have been responsible, and now the Feds think they have their man.

Austin was released from jail on payment of $50,000 in bail money, and will have to appear in court in San Francisco at 09:30 on September 21 before the Honorable Sallie Kim. If found guilty, he faces a possible sentence of 40 years in prison and $2m in fines.

As usual with these type of cyber-crimes cases in the US, they are VERY strict and the maximum sentence is 40 years in prison plus a $2 Million fine.

A little harsh for something that was non-commercial and didn’t seem to do any long term damage. We will have to wait for the actual sentencing on Sept 21st to see what happens next.

Source: The Register

Posted in: Linux Hacking, Malware


Latest Posts:


dSploit APK Download - Hacking & Security Toolkit For Android dSploit APK Download – Hacking & Security Toolkit For Android
dSploit APK Download is a Hacking & Security Toolkit For Android which can conduct network analysis and penetration testing activities.
Scallion - GPU Based Onion Hash Generator Scallion – GPU Based Onion Hash Generator
Scallion is a GPU-driven Onion Hash Generator written in C#, it lets you create vanity GPG keys and .onion addresses (for Tor's hidden services).
WiFi-Dumper - Dump WiFi Profiles and Cleartext Passwords WiFi-Dumper – Dump WiFi Profiles and Cleartext Passwords
WiFi-Dumper is an open-source Python-based tool to dump WiFi profiles and cleartext passwords of the connected access points on a Windows machine.
truffleHog - Search Git for High Entropy Strings with Commit History truffleHog – Search Git for High Entropy Strings with Commit History
truffleHog is a Python-based tool to search Git for high entropy strings, digging deep into commit history and branches. This is effective at finding secrets accidentally committed.
AIEngine - AI-driven Network Intrusion Detection System AIEngine – AI-driven Network Intrusion Detection System
AIEngine is a next-generation interactive/programmable Python/Ruby/Java/Lua and Go AI-driven Network Intrusion Detection System engine with many capabilities.
Sooty - SOC Analyst All-In-One CLI Tool Sooty – SOC Analyst All-In-One CLI Tool
Sooty is a tool developed with the task of aiding a SOC analyst to automate parts of their workflow and speed up their process.


One Response to Linux kernel.org Hacker Arrested After Traffic Stop

  1. ic34xe September 8, 2016 at 6:25 pm #

    its because of fear in the us they thrive by fear and are quite pathetic in regards to long sentences sad f e ck ers cant believe a hack would be worse than killing someone in a drunken collision but wait if you have dollar thats ok you can buy your way out or at least to a house arrest!

    only reason they are chasing hackers hard because they got exposed by their own lame ass processes, deserve everything they get!