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Thoughts on recent xz open source incident?

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Mid-level Software Engineer at Taro Community20 days ago

Any thoughts/reflections/lessons from the recent incident?

TL;DR of the incident (generated by LLM and verified by me)

The xz backdoor news refers to a critical security vulnerability discovered in the XZ Utils, a widely used compression utility in many Linux distributions.

This vulnerability, identified as CVE-2024-3094, was found in versions 5.6.0 and 5.6.1 of XZ Utils.

It allows a malicious actor to bypass SSH authentication and gain unauthorized remote access to Linux systems.

The backdoor was introduced by a contributor using the pseudonym Jia Tan, who had been involved with the xz project for two years.

The discovery of this backdoor has raised concerns about the potential for other undiscovered backdoors in earlier versions of the library and the implications for the security of Linux systems that rely on this utility.

The backdoor was first detected by Andres Freund, a Microsoft engineer, who noticed an unusual delay in his SSH login time, which led him to investigate and uncover the malicious code in the xz utility tarball used in Debian installations.

The malicious code was designed to interfere with the authentication process in SSH, a protocol used for secure remote logins, allowing unauthorized access to the system.

This vulnerability has prompted urgent responses from the Linux community, with distributions like Fedora, Debian, and openSUSE advising users to update their systems or revert to uncompromised versions of XZ Utils.

The incident has highlighted the importance of vigilance and collaboration within the open-source community to identify and mitigate security threats.

It also underscores the potential risks associated with upstream supply chain attacks, where malicious code is inserted into widely used software components, affecting numerous downstream users and systems

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Discussion

(1 comment)
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    20 days ago

    Across my career, I have realized how truly difficult it is to write good code, especially when I was working at the scale of Instagram. It's already hard enough preventing all possible product errors from users who are just trying to use your app/website/API, so dealing with security errors where the actors are actually malicious is even harder. So my overall response is, "Eh, not surprised".

    Code vulnerabilities is just one of those things where it's best not to worry about it as they're everywhere and you don't have much control over it. Most people in the world eat meat, but they probably don't want to learn exactly where that meat comes from and how it all works. It's sort of similar with software - There's way more insane jank underneath the surface than you realize 🤣