Detailing the breach in a post to the main mailing list, the organisation's president, Joshua Hesketh, wrote yesterday that the breach had been discovered during an investigation as to why a large number of error reporting emails had been generated by a server hosting the organisation's conference management system. known as Zookeepr.
Linux Australia hosts an annual national conference known as LinuxConf at various venues and also sponsors a number of smaller events catering to different open-source technologies.
The server which generated the error emails hosted the conference systems for the national conferences of 2013, 2014 and 2015, and for PyCon Australia 2013 and 2014, the latter two being conferences devoted to the Python programming language.
When the errors were investigated on March 24, it was discovered that between 4am and 6am on March 22, the server had been breached by an individual using what Hesketh described as "a currently unknown vulnerability to trigger a remote buffer overflow and gain root-level access to the server".
He wrote that a remote access tool was installed, and the server was rebooted to load this software into memory. "A botnet command and control was subsequently installed
and started. During the period the individual had access to the Zookeepr server, a number of Linux Australia's automated backup processes ran, which included the dumping of conference databases to disk."
While there was no indication that personal information had been lost, Hesketh said the organisation was operating with the worst case scenario in mind. The database dumps that occurred during the breach "include information provided during conference registration – first and last names, physical and email addresses, and any phone contact details provided, as well as a hashed version of the user password".
Hesketh said that as the organisation used a third party to handle credit card payments, there would be no banking or credit card details in the database dumps.
Asked whether the attacker had physical access to the server, Hesketh said: "There is no evidence of the attacker having physical access. As such, we believe it was a remote attack."