Update and Report on Fedora August 2008 Intrusion

Paul W. Frields stickster at gmail.com
Mon Mar 30 14:00:15 UTC 2009

This communication provides additional information on the Fedora
infrastructure intrusion first reported on August 14, 2008.  In part
this communication reiterates information provided in previous

On August 12, 2008, a failed cron job on a Fedora host reported an
error to the Fedora system administrators.  While investigating the
source of this error, the sysadmins reviewed the recent logs and
discovered that the package complement on the host had changed.
Further investigation showed that changes were the result of tampering
by an intruder.  Once the extent of the problem was discovered, we
notified the community:


The compromise was not the result of a software vulnerability, and as
we have previously stated, our investigation has revealed no such
vulnerabilities.  Instead, the intruder took a copy of a SSH private
key which was not secured with a passphrase from a system outside the
Fedora infrastructure.  The intruder then used that key, which
belonged to a Fedora administrator, to access Fedora systems.  In
addition, based on system log sudo entries, we believe the intruder
also compromised that user's password.  New security policies for
Fedora administrators directly address the further safeguarding of
keys, as noted below.

The Fedora package signing key was present on a system to which the
intruder had access during the time of the event, but the results of
our investigation did not lead us to believe the intruder accessed the

The intruder used the account's privileges to build modified versions
of openssh and rpm.  These packages would have allowed the intruder to
capture the passphrases of unwitting users on our build system, or the
passphrase used to secure the package signing key.  With the signing
key's passphrase and access to that key, the intruder would have been
able to fraudulently sign packages.

The intruder did deploy the modified packages, and the modified SSH
package may have captured passphrases for a short time.  However, the
investigation supports the conclusion that the modified packages were
discovered before anyone accessed the system to sign any packages
using the modified RPM package.  Therefore, we do not believe the
intruder ever had access to the passphrase to the signing key.
Nevertheless, previous announcements have explained clearly the
precautionary reasons for our earlier decision to deploy a new package
signing key.  Details on the process and progress of the signing key
changes can be found here:


The modified packages were only installed on a small number of Fedora
infrastructure systems, and therefore we do not believe Fedora account
holders were at significant risk during the time the intruder had
these packages in place.  We also required passphrase and SSH key
changes from Fedora users, to increase our confidence going forward.

To reiterate, our analysis supports our initial findings that the
Fedora Project infrastructure delivered no software compromised by the
intruder to any of its mirrors, or the master repository from which
they synchronize content.  Our investigation also shows that the
intrusion affected only a few internal Fedora infrastructure servers.
Most of the mitigation work done by the Fedora Infrastructure team was
precautionary, and allows us to have higher confidence in our present
and future work.

The Fedora Infrastructure team quickly responded to the threat,
isolated the systems in question from the network, made snapshots of
affected hosts, assessed the damage, and proceeded to rebuild Fedora's
entire infrastructure essentially from scratch.  By the end of the
first week after the event, most essential systems were functioning
nominally again.  The remainder of the work took close to three weeks
to complete fully, and return all systems to normal status.

To increase our security posture, the Fedora Infrastructure team now
requires all members of the Fedora system administrator groups to use
passphrases on their private keys.  That policy is found, along with
other policies of the Infrastructure team, here:


The Infrastructure team is also actively developing a Community
Services Infrastructure project (http://fedorahosted.org/csi) and
supporting documentation to include these lessons in their guidance.
Team members have also worked on deploying SELinux throughout our
infrastructure as well as an audit and prelude intrusion detection
system for added good measure.  Furthermore, the Fedora release
engineering team is also leading efforts on further improvements and
refinements to Fedora's package signing system and procedures.
Community members are invited to contact the appropriate Fedora team
if they wish to get involved in any of these processes.

The specific facts that emerged during the investigation, which was
international in nature, made it necessary to restrict information
flowing to the public, to avoid damaging the effectiveness of the
investigation.  That restriction has been unfortunate, and is not in
the ordinary spirit of openness and transparency with which we strive
to define the Fedora Project.

We appreciate the patience and support the Fedora community has given
us over the past several months.  We also wish to express our thanks
for the technical assistance of the security response team at Red Hat.
This report concludes the matter from the Fedora Project's
perspective, and provides a final accounting of the intrusion event
and response by the Fedora infrastructure and management teams.

Following is a detailed time line, in UTC, of activities by Fedora

= = = = = 
2008-08-12 01:00:00 - Last packaging signing process from a Fedora admin.  Key would have been on host temporarily up until this time. 
2008-08-12 07:49:05 - Standard Fedora 'pkgconfig' package installed by the intruder.  This package is required to build an 'openssh' package.  Intruder proceeds to build a  modified 'openssh' package. 
2008-08-12 08:10:46 - modified 'openssh' package installed by intruder. 
2008-08-12 17:46:50 - Standard Fedora 'gettext' package installed by intruder.  This package is required to build an 'rpm' package. 
2008-08-12 20:18:36 - Standard Fedora 'mc' package installed by intruder, possibly for convenience of stealth. 
2008-08-12 21:33:59 - Bacula backup started (scheduled job) 
2008-08-12 22:01:54 - Bacula backup Ended 
2008-08-12 22:31:51 - modified 'rpm' package installed (along with standard Fedora package dependencies for 'rpm'). 
2008-08-12 22:51:00 - Cron job failed, notified admins. 
2008-08-12 22:53:00 - Fedora Infrastructure admins first noticed and started poking around at why RPM had changed. 
2008-08-12 23:11:00 - Infrastructure team lead is notified and more prodding begins. 
2008-08-12 23:38:00 - Infrastructure team members gather for discussions on dedicated, private IRC channel and conference call. 
2008-08-13 01:50:00 - It becomes more clear that a script is not at fault.  LVM snapshot taken. 
2008-08-13 04:00:14 - Bacula backup (during the intrusion) restored to secure location 
2008-08-13 04:04:14 - Discovery of an RPM in /root/.ssh/ provides proof of malicious intent. 
2008-08-13 04:05:00 - Red Hat security team notified. 
2008-08-13 04:46:00 - Compromised host prohibited from routing out or in.  All machines on its network are preventing access from it.  Outbound connections logged. 
2008-08-13 05:16:00 - Fedora Project Leader notified. 
2008-08-13 06:13:00 - Host state saved (Xen guest).  We have a running copy of the host as it was without a reboot. 
2008-08-13 06:14:00 - Users who have accessed the machine during the intrusion advised to change their passwords and SSH keys. 
2008-08-13 10:13:00 - Work continues in concert with Red Hat security team members. Preliminary announcement prepared
2008-08-14 17:36:00 - All passwords and SSH keys disabled. 
2008-08-14 23:15:13 - Preliminary announcement to fedora-announce-list, 1+19:11 after initial determination of malicious event. 
2008-08-15 02:47:00 - All administrator access forced to shell access only for partial re-enabling of account system. 
2008-08-15 12:00:00 - (approximate) Fedora's package build system, koji, patched to revoke all access. 
2008-08-15 13:11:00 - Last package build routine allowed to complete before shutdown.  Comprehensive verification of the build system database contents begins, comparing against known source for malicious content. 
2008-08-16 15:30:03 - Update announcement to fedora-announce-list, 3+11:26 after initial determination of malicious event. 
2008-08-17 22:34:00 - Members of sysadmin-web group allowed back on app servers. 
2008-08-18 04:06:31 - Primary content verification of build system and CVS completed. 
2008-08-18 18:06:00 - CVS admins allowed back on servers, and handle additional verification for hosted projects. 
2008-08-19 02:07:45 - Update announcement to fedora-announce-list, 5+22:03 after initial determination of malicious event. 
2008-08-19 02:37:00 - Hosted project verification completed, and Fedora Hosted back online. 
2008-08-19 20:19:00 - Anonymous access via cvspserver allowed. 
2008-08-20 02:53:00 - Writable access to cvs1 reactivated. 
2008-08-20 18:35:00 - Koji build system officially open and building again. 
2008-08-22 12:00:02 - Update announcement to fedora-announce-list, 9+07:56 after initial determination of malicious event. 
2008-09-19 02:41:29 - Update announcement to fedora-announce-list, 37+22:37 after initial determination of malicious event.  Investigation and issue resolution continues. 
2009-03-30 14:00:00 - Final report to fedora-announce-list, 229+9:56 after initial determination of malicious event.
= = = = = 

Paul W. Frields                                http://paul.frields.org/
  gpg fingerprint: 3DA6 A0AC 6D58 FEC4 0233  5906 ACDB C937 BD11 3717
  http://redhat.com/   -  -  -  -   http://pfrields.fedorapeople.org/
  irc.freenode.net: stickster @ #fedora-docs, #fedora-devel, #fredlug
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