27-year-old arrested in Florida for Linux Kernel Organization hack

Donald Ryan Austin, a 27 year-old programmer from Florida, was arrested by Miami Shores Police this Sunday for allegedly gaining unauthorized access into the Linux Kernel Organization and the Linux Foundation servers in 2011 and infecting them with malicious software.

The Linux Kernel Organization is in charge of keeping the website www.kernel.org and distributing the operating system, while the Linux Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports the website.

Authorities accuse Austin of stealing login credentials from a volunteer and the private encryption key which he used to attack four servers. Once he gained access to the system, he installed Phalanx rootkit and Trojan software to steal passwords and to further modify and manipulate system software. It took the engineers 17 days to detect the breach, and the incident was never reported in detail.

“Intruders gained root access on the server Hera,” kernel.org administrators said back in 2011. “We believe they may have gained this access via a compromised user credential; how they managed to exploit that to root access is currently unknown and is being investigated.”

For now, the suspect is out after paying a $50,000 bail, with the next court appearance to take place on September 21 in San Francisco. If guilty, Austin faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, plus restitutions.

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