More than half of Ubuntu's production servers had to be pulled offline after a security breach caused those servers to actively attack other machines.
According to a notice in the Ubuntu weekly newsletter, 5 of the 8 servers that are loco hosted had to be shut down after an investigation showed a variety of security problems.
The servers were found to be missing security patches, using insecure protocols (FTP without SSL) to access the machines and without upgrades past breezy due to problems with the network cards and later kernels.
"The situation has become untenable," Ubuntu's Jono Bacon said in an e-mail outlining changes to the loco server policy.
Some details on the breach:
- The servers, especially zambezi were running an incredible amount of web software (over 15 packages recognized) and of all the ones where it's trivial to determine a version, they were without exception out-of-date and missing security patches. An attacker could have gotten a shell through almost any of these sites.
- FTP (not sftp, without SSL) was being used to access the machines, so an attacker (in the right place) could also have gotten access by sniffing the clear-text passwords.
- The servers have not been upgraded past breezy due to problems with the network card and later kernels. This probably allowed the attacker to gain root.
A post on Slashdot notes that there is a blame game going on between Canonical (the company that sponsors the servers) and the community administrators who are being blamed for poor security practices.