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Exaile.org gets hacked!

I’ll admit. I didn’t think this really happened to sites as small as exaile.org, where they are running Linux and not too many services, but I guess that type of thinking is what leads to these types of things.

After it happened I began reading blog posts and other material regarding rootkits and security. I was surprised, and rather distraught to find out that this type of thing happens more than you might think, and that in most cases, the owner of the machine in question doesn’t even know that it’s happened. I don’t know about you, but that worries me to death. If that’s the case, you might be wondering how I found out?

First off, ssh starts acting weird. Instead of the usual:

The authenticity of host ‘host.tld (3.344.33.67)’ can’t be established. RSA key fingerprint is e7:f9:61:d4:d3:f7:0c:42:3a:dc:39:4D:89:2b:7b:f8.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)?

that you get when you’re trying to connect to a host you’ve never connected to before, I was getting some error message regarding “public keys” that I’ve never seen before, and even weirder, I was getting it when trying to connect to hosts I had already accepted the public key for. I did some manpage reading, and wondered if I had inadvertently switched my preferred authentication type when I was playing around with WebShell (who knows, maybe webshell is the cause of all my problems). The error message I was getting made me thing I had somehow switched to publickey authentication. So, I tried passing the -o PreferredAuthentications=password,keyboard-interactive. I got an error saying “-o PreferredAuthentications is an invalid option”.

Now, I’m no SSH expert, but I had used that option before, and it mentions is specifically in the manpage. By this point, I think I’ve totally broken something. Again, I know I’m not an SSH expert, so I take the Windows approach. I decide that I’m going to just remove ~/.ssh and reinstall openssh-client. apt-get appears to remove everything correctly, but upon reinstall, it claims it can’t overwrite /usr/bin/ssh because the “Operation is not permitted”. What? I’m root. I should be able to remove whatever I want. I jump into #openssh on freenode. I ask them if there is some sort of built in block for security regarding this.

After fiddling around and with some suggestions from a user in that channel, I find out that, for whatever reason, /usr/bin/ssh has been giving the ext2 attributes of “+uia”. These attributes are set using the chattr command. From the chattr manpage:

  • +a: A file with the ‘a’ attribute set can only be open in append mode for writing. Only the superuser or a process possessing the CAP_LINUX_IMMUTABLE capability can set or clear this attribute.
  • +i: A file with the ‘i’ attribute cannot be modified: it cannot be deleted or renamed, no link can be created to this file and no data can be written to the file. Only the superuser or a process possessing the CAP_LINUX_IMMUTABLE capability can set or clear this attribute.
  • +u: When a file with the ‘u’ attribute set is deleted, its contents are saved. This allows the user to ask for its undeletion.

Ok…. great. I had seen the +i attribute before and knew about chattr from my gentoo days. +i is used on the ext3 journal file. No big deal, I figure this is something debian has done for extra security. I unset the attributes with chattr -iua. I try to reinstall openssh-client again. Same thing happens, only with ssh-add. I go to /usr/bin and run chattr -iua ssh-*. The reinstall goes well this time. Ssh however, is still acting weird. I’m getting a little weirded out now. I type which ssh. What does it return? /usr/local/bin/ssh. WHAT THE HELL?!!? Now I know I’ve been hacked, there’s no reason anything would be in /usr/local/anything on this machine. I check /usr/local/bin and notice there’s a myriad of ssh-related commands.

I start scouring the logs. I see things like this:

Aug 20 07:42:54 sp su10246: Successful su for nobody by root
Aug 20 07:42:54 sp su10246: + ??? root:nobody
Aug 20 07:42:54 sp su10246: (pam_unix) session opened for user nobody by (uid=0)
Aug 20 07:42:54 sp su10246: (pam_unix) session closed for user nobody

I’m freaking. Why is root suing to nobody? (I later find out that this is the cronjob that runs daily for the find utility, and it’s totally normal). I check other files in /usr/bin with lsattr. Most of them are set +iua. I keep looking around… using ps aux and looking for processes out of the ordinary. I look around in my web directories… and in http://www.exaile.org/files, I find a directory that’s just named “    ”. That’s right, four spaces. Inside is a directory called “www.irs.gov”, and inside that…. what do I find? A couple of html files and a php script designed to convince whoever that they are on the irs.gov website, and that they are entitled to a sum of over $100 as a return, so long as they fill out their credit card information. A quick look at the php script shows that the information is just logging to a file. Nothing is in the file… yet.

I keep looking around… at this point, I’m sued to root. Suddenly, I see a line that says “Killed”, and I’m back at my user prompt. Someone had killed my bash session. The who command showed only me. I su back to root. Killed again, and then once more, and I’m totally kicked off the server. I try to log back in, and my password doesn’t work. You can imagine how I felt. I wonder to myself “can I log into my webhosting companies support panel and shut the server down?” I try sshing as root, and am able to get in with the root password (I know, I know, I shouldn’t have root logins enabled). I quickly type ‘halt’.

Worst feeling ever. I’m not worried about exaile.org or any of my other opensource websites. I’m kind of a backup nazi… but it’s the other sites I’m hosting for my friends and their companies that I’m worried about. They can’t access their websites, they can’t get their mail.

How does one recover from this? I found out that my hosting company, for $70 (which I didn’t have at the time), will set me up an entirely fresh install of Debian on a new drive with my old drive as a slave. It took me a couple of days to get the money in my account to be able to do so. During this time is when I’m doing my research.

I got my hands on a couple rootkit tarballs. I was able to read the source of them, and found out, that at least for shv5, modifying chattr (by renaming it and replacing it with a script) would render the kit totally useless. Probably other things like renaming tar and etc would stop a script kiddie.

HOWEVER, I realize that these are just little steps (read: hacks) in securing a website. I know that it starts with having a secure setup in the first place… but again, I’m not an expert on this either. So how does a n00b like me secure their piddly servers? I really don’t know. What I do know is that I was being very lax in the first place. I was running proftpd, and I didn’t need to be. I was sending ftp passwords to people on irc via message, though in plain text. My web directory permissions were often just “777” to make things easier when I couldn’t figure out why something wasn’t working. I had heard that the imap and pop3 server (courier) I was using was insecure, but I really wasn’t doing anything about it, and I wasn’t keeping up on my security updates. I was running a private IRC server that was accessible publicly. I’m running PHP... I’ve always heard that’s a bad idea. Probably a bunch of other things.

I’ve got my server back up, and most of the above problems are corrected… all but courier, which is still running, and PHP, which I’m still using. I’ve got courier limited via iptables to certain IPs because I really don’t know what else to do. All my users’ current email depends on courier.

I know that I’m lucky in this case. If the attacker had been anything more than a 13 year old running scripts, I’d probably be hosting some crazy phishing site and a number of IRC bots right now without knowing it. I’ve still got the old drive accessible as a slave, but I don’t know what to do with it (is there a way to find out how the attacker got in?)

Anyway. That’s my story for the day. If any of you have any suggestions, I’d be glad to hear them.

I’m tired. No vim tip for today… other than this: Scrolling is much faster in gVIM. Just a random note.

Filed under: Exaile, Security
Comments:

From A.Q.T. on Nov. 12 @ 11:04 a.m. 2007

I was there! <3

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