Because FLOSS is handy, isn’t it?

Rootkits and FLOSS

Posted by isilanes on April 19, 2006

Amazing the human boldness is. Truly amazing.

The McAfee anti-virus company Senior Vice President of Global Threats at McAfee, Stuart McClure (the more impressive a title, the less impressive the job) poured a bit of poison through his mouth, and ascribed the increase of rootkit attacks (into Windows systems, I suppose. But remember there are Linux rootkits. Linux is immune to virus, not to other attacks, including rootkits, intrusion via weak passwords, DoS attacks, annoying pop-ups and java scripts in web pages, etc.) to the Open Software movement (article at NetworkWorld.com here).

Now, this comes from a company that failed to properly handle the Sony rootkit threat, even though they had many customers calling for help. Mmmm, I see, rootkits are only a menace if they don’t come from huge corporations eager to squeeze our money out of us.

The link this cretin uses to blame the FLOSS movement is twofold: the first one is a post hoc, ergo propter hoc (sorry, I’m a pedant bastard). He implies that both FLOSS and rootkits are rising, and thus the latter is caused by the former. In related news, he also [could have] said that the global warming is caused by the decrease in the number of pirates, because there is a definite correlation between the two over the last 200 years (see it here).

His second link from rootkits to FLOSS is the web page rootkit.com. This web page is allegedly malicious, and helps people (crackers) create baneful (sorry, I woke up with a Merriam-Webster mood today) malware (as the page name, ehem, implies).

Now, I have a couple of objections to that reasoning. The first, and most obvious one, is that one can not blame the whole FLOSS community for some rogue members. The second is that… are those guys at rootkit.com rogue at all?

I did visit the web page, and the first article one stumbles upon right now is:

Ad-Aware is a poorly written anti-spyware program from Lavasoft. Running it gives you a false sense of safeness. There can be done numerous attacks against this software. I’ll show some of the problems and attacks in this write-up. Here’s just a summary of the most visible problems I’ve run into.

So, on one hand, it seems to be (and is) giving info to exploit holes in that program, but, most importantly it is pointing out those holes, PUBLICLY. If those dummies at Lavasoft cared about their clients and the quality of their product, they’d only need to read rootkit.com to find out what errors it has, and presumably hints on how to fix them.

One can only wonder how a publicly announced exploit can be of malicious use at all. Indeed, if the rootkit the cracker creates is Open Source, it becomes trivial to eradicate it. The rootkits that actually scare me are the ones that don’t get announced!

Remember that security through obscurity is a Bad Thing(TM). The security problem of the example above (Ad-Aware) is to be found in its bugs, not in the airing of them. The publification is a way to solution.

As Linus Torvalds says: “many eyes make all bugs shallow”.

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