Source code management a weak spot in Aurora attacks

McAfee says that hackers were after the source code management systems

Companies should take extra steps to secure their source code from the type of targeted attacks that hit Google, Adobe, Intel and others over the past few months.

That's according to security vendor McAfee, which released a report detailing the way software source code was accessed in some of these attacks. "We saw targeted attacks against software configuration management products," said George Kurtz, McAfee's chief technology officer.

In many of the attacks company engineers and technical staff were targeted with malicious software. And in some cases, source code management systems were accessed and code was downloaded outside of company firewalls, Kurtz said.

"These systems are designed so you can have multiple people around the world working on them," Kurtz said. That often gives the bad guys several ways to get into the code. To make matters worse, source code management systems "are underprotected and not very well monitored," he said.

That means that they could make easy targets in future attacks.

To illustrate this point, McAfee researchers took a look at a source code management system used by Google itself, software called Perforce. They found a number of problems. Perforce sends passwords across the network in unencrypted form, allows anonymous users to create new accounts, and runs with a higher-than-necessary level of privileges, giving hackers an extra way to exploit the system it's running on.

"There's not a lot of security in place and there's not a lot of logging," to protect source code within most companies, Kurtz said. "If that's your crown jewels, you might want to think twice about how you're protected."

Perforce was unable to comment immediately on McAfee's findings, but the Perforce bugs that McAfee found have little to do with the actual Aurora attacks, first disclosed by Google in mid-January.

That's because the Aurora hackers didn't need to break into any source code management systems. They were able to get access to engineering computers, which could in turn access these systems, said Alex Stamos, a partner with Isec Partners.

A bigger problem is the fact that the Aurora hackers were able to access such a wealth of data from a small number of machines, he said. "Most engineer have access to way more than they need," he said.

With access to source code systems, criminals could alter software products, planting back door access mechanisms or logic bombs. Or they could simply download the code to analyze it for software bugs. Either of these is a scary proposition, security experts say.

In Google's case, there is a lot of data on that Perforce Server. According to this paper by Google staffer Rick Wright 8,000 engineers at Google have access to a Perforce server with about 600 gigabytes of data.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Googlesoftware developmentAurora attacksource code

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?