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Red Hat's security issue

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Last month, Red Hat issued a security bulletin. Not all that went on is clear, but it seems that the servers used to develop and distribute Fedora and Red Hat were accessed by a person with criminal intent. The perpetrator created trap-door versions of the SSH (remote login program) packages that would compromise the security of Red Hat's customers, and signed them with Fedora's cryptographic key. These packages were made available via Fedora archive and they may (I've not proof) have reached some number of Fedora customers. Obviously they were intended to be widely distributed and to compromise the security of all Red Hat and Fedora systems. Red Hat issued a script that users can run to detect the compromised packages.

But there are continuing problems with Red Hat's handling of the situation.

Best practice of computer security professionals is to fully disclose what went wrong and how you're preventing it from happening again. This tells customer security officers what they need to audit the security practices of their vendor, and to secure their own facilities. The worst practice, for which Microsoft is the prototype, is to stay mum and not admit any problems.

Red Hat's being mum. Fedora's being forced to be mum, because their own board has not been given full details and of course they are mostly controlled by Red Hat.

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Security breaches bring out the proprietary attitude in all of us. When security is breached we instinctively hide the details, and build a metaphorical police line around it, telling onlookers to move along.

The security attitude runs counter to the open source attitude. Open source demands that bugs be seen and lessons shared. The security attitude fears this release of information because the evil doers might get it.

With that in mind let’s move to the umbrage of Bruce Byfield during what Slashdot termed last month’s Fedora-Red Hat crisis.

Fedora and our security attitude

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