Debian attacker may have used new exploit

Monday, 1 December 2003, 1:29 PM EST

Initial investigations of the security breach, which occurred on 19 November, indicate that the attacker was able to gain full control of Debian servers after logging on via unprivileged accounts, known as privilege escalation, according to James Troup, part of the team handling Debian's distribution.

"I believe that there was an as-yet-unknown local root exploit used to go from having local unprivileged access to having root," Troup wrote in an email to a Debian mailing list on Friday. "There is [I believe] an unknown local root exploit in the wild."

The exploit was carried out on Debian software running on Intel-based hardware, while a system using Sun hardware was not affected, leading some to guess that Sun software is not affected by the possible exploit.

The attacker initially logged onto an unprivileged account on the server, using a stolen password, then attained full administrative -- or "root" -- access, and installed a hacker toolkit called Suckit, according to Troup. A similar technique was used on several other servers.

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