Back in the year 1999, long before I started my Asterisk days, I spent most of my time as a security consultant and cyber forensics expert. I remember that in those days, most of the hacks were script kiddies exploiting some Windows IIS well known hole, and you would usually get the “Hacked by Chinese” black display on your website – how annoying!

In any case, I’ve recently replaced my co-location firewall. I’ve migrated from a Linux system running IPtables with a manual script, to a fully blown IPCOP installation. Ok, so IPCOP is nothing more than a fancy GUI for IPtables, but hey, it makes my life a whole lot easier on the management side – and it’s very stable – so who am I to complain?

I’ve decided to run a small experiment, I wanted to setup a Linux box, with a root password of 123456. My question was this, how much time will pass from the moment the machine was up, on a new IP address, till the machine gets hacked – and more importantly, from where and what got installed on the machine?

So, the machine fired up for the first time at Fri Jul 25 23:19, believe it or not, the machine got hacked at Sat Jul 26 00:50. A mere 90 minutes into the air, and the machine got hacked. The funny thing was that at Sat Jul 26 03:09 it got hacked again to the same account, then at Sat Jul 26 03:21, which also closed the root access via SSH at this point. Following below is the last log:

root     pts/0    Sat Jul 26 06:04   still logged in
reboot   system boot  2.6.18-53.1.14.e Sat Jul 26 06:02          (00:17)
root     pts/1    Sat Jul 26 03:21 - 03:24  (00:03)
root     pts/0    Sat Jul 26 03:09 - 05:20  (02:11)
root     pts/1     Sat Jul 26 00:50 - 00:50  (00:00)
root     pts/0    Fri Jul 25 23:24 - 01:39  (02:14)
root     tty1                          Fri Jul 25 23:22 - 23:24  (00:01)
reboot   system boot  2.6.18-53.1.14.e Fri Jul 25 23:19          (07:00)
root     tty1                          Fri Jul 25 22:14 - down   (01:03)
reboot   system boot  2.6.18-53.1.14.e Fri Jul 25 21:58          (01:19)

I admit it, putting a machine on the open net, with a root password of 123456 and open root access to SSH – that’s kind of a honey pot the size of the grand canyon. But what amazed me here was not the speed, but actually the locations of the hacks:, and One hacker is in China, the other in Romania and the third in the UK. What is this? a real hacker? maybe 3 different robots scanning? – I can’t really tell here. However, the traces they left were interesting enough – which lead me to believe we’re talking about robot hacking.

First off, a look at /var/log/audit/audit.log immediately showed the logins – the hacker didn’t even remove the log file – marking of a script kiddie running an automated script. So, what did they leave on my box, let’s take a look. Running ‘netstat -apn | less’ would show me open ports, unless netstat was replaced. However, lets start with this:

tcp        0      0           ESTABLISHED 2940/crond
tcp        0      1           SYN_SENT    2940/crond
tcp        0      1         SYN_SENT    2940/crond

Ok, so this is most probably an IRC bot waiting for instructions from the hacker – till now nothing special. The script tries to masquerade the bot with a legitimate process name: crond. Well, that may fool a beginner Linux Sysadmin, however, seeing crond connecting to 3 other hosts at TCP 6667 – ok, that’s kind’a lame – no?

I wonder where he hid the script? maybe he replaced crond?

root@pbx:~ $ find / -name "crond"
root@pbx:~ $

Hmm… /var/tmp/.www/crond looks promising, let’s see what’s in there:

root@pbx:~ $ ls -la /var/tmp/
total 24
drwxrwxrwt  4 root root 4096 Jul 26  2008 .
drwxr-xr-x 25 root root 4096 Jul 25  2008 ..
drwxr-xr-x  2 root root 4096 Jun 27 17:03 .spd
drwxr-xr-x  4  501  502 4096 Jul 26  2008 .www

Yummy! Let’s check it out:

root@pbx:/var/tmp $ ll .spd/
total 1316
-rwxr-xr-x 1 root root    265 Nov 19  2005
-rwxr-xr-x 1 root root     72 Jun 26 19:43 pass_file
-rwxr-xr-x 1 root root  21407 Nov 19  2005 pscan2
-rwxr-xr-x 1 root root    218 Jun 27 16:59 s
-rwxr-xr-x 1 root root 453972 Nov 19  2005 ss
-rwxr-xr-x 1 root root 842736 Jun 26 19:20 ssh-scan
-rwxr-xr-x 1 root root    312 Jun 27 17:02 x
root@pbx:/var/tmp $ ll .www/
total 888
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502    353 Jul 26  2008 1.user
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502    349 Jul 26  2008 2.user
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502    353 Mar 14  2009 3.user
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502    317 Nov  6  2007 autorun
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root      0 Jul 26  2008 belgian.seen
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502    942 May 15  2003 checkmech
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502  23237 May 15  2003 configure
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502 492135 Mar  4  2005 crond
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502     48 Jul 26  2008 cron.d
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502    171 Jul 26  2008 cutitas
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502   4147 May 15  2003 genuser
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502    157 Jul 25 17:36 LinkEvents
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502      0 Oct 15  2007 lucifer.seen
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502   2154 May 15  2003 Makefile
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502     14 Jul 26  2008 m.dir
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502  22882 May 15  2003
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502    748 May 15  2003 mkindex
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502   1043 Jul 26  2008 m.lev
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502      5 Jul 25 17:35
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502   1068 Jul 26  2008
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502   1675 Mar 25  2009 m.set
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502 167964 Mar 16  2001 pico
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502  84476 Jun 23  2006 pico.tgz
drwxr-xr-x 2  501  502   4096 Jul 23 15:48 r
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502    661 Jul 12 22:00 shadow}{700.seen
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502    661 Jul 12 22:00 shadow}{800.seen
-rwxr-xr-x 1  501  502    715 Jul 12 22:00 shadow}{900.seen
drwxr-xr-x 2  501  502   4096 Jul 23 15:51 src
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root   1842 Jul 26  2008 zak.seen

Looks like .spd is the SSH scanner and the .www directory contains the actual bot binary – ok, I can respect that. The contents of the cron.d file suggested that the script utilizes crontab to verify that the bot is always up and running – and examination of its code assured me of that.

So, what have we learned from the above: just one thing! When installing a server for the first time, DON’T USE A SILLY PASSWORD LIKE 123456 – EVEN NOT FOR THE INSTALLATION PHASE! Scanning robots appear to be scanning the entire Internet over and over and over again, doing so in seconds – so by the time you install your server, set it up completely, there is a good chance it will already be compromised.

We’ve recently learned that Fonality had forked FreePBX into its own version, to better serve the TrixBox community. Judging from what we’ve learned about Fonality/TrixBox/KG over the past few months, it is my personal belief that this is just another from of spin on the “TrixBox calls home” feature, simply doing something to hide it better – most probably will be somewhere in the management code now.

However, it led me to an interesting discussion with a friend – “will Fonality fork Asterisk?”

It is fairly clear that Fonality is doing all in its power to go about and distinguish itself from the rest of the community and the Asterisk eco system, by simply creating a product that is completely seperated from Asterisk. The amount of patches and modifications going into the TrixBox distribution, makes the running Asterisk on TrixBox a completely different one than the one running on AsteriskNOW, Elastix or pbx-in-a-flash. Is it stable? that is a good question, I’d like to believe that it is. After all, if it wouldn’t have been stable, Fonality would have been out of business. Fonality also goes to great deal to make sure that their TrixBox resellers can’t replicate their appliance easily. For example, over the course of the past 12 months, Fonality had changed the insides of their TrixBox appliance a few times, each time with a different motherboard, a different set of distribution packages and so on.

In the same fashion, it is only common sense for Fonality to fork Asterisk to their own product. My assumption is that Fonality at some point will either fork Asterisk, migrate their code to FreeSwitch or more probably CallWeaver, take over one of these projects like they took over TrixBox/AAH and completely distinguish themselves from the Asterisk community and product line. Will it do good for them? time will tell – if it happens. Will it be good for Asterisk/Digium? – in general terms that answer will be yes, as it will make Fonality/TrixBox automatically distinguishable from Asterisk. Which when asked what is the different between TrixBox and Asterisk, the immediate answer would be: “These are two completely different products!”.

It is my belief that by Q4 2010 we are to see some major shifts in the Open Source Telecom arena. My projection is that by Q4 2010 Digium will be in a position for either an IPO or an M&A. While my personal belief is that Digium prefers an IPO, an M&A proposition from a major vendor (Cisco/Nortel/Avaya) will come before the IPO option. I also believe that by the Q4 2010 Fonality will either fork Asterisk, adopt FreeSwitch or CallWeaver and distinguish themselves.

It is also my belief that by Q4 2010 Sangoma will try to acquire an Open Source PBX/Switch project. Although they recently acquired a SIP PBX company, I believe that this acquiry is nothing more than a small publicity stunt to keep Sangoma in the investor’s mind, making sure that Sangoma progresses in some form. The recent news about Sangoma integrating their signalling stacks to FreeSwitch makes me believe that the most likely candidate will be FreeSwitch – the Asterisk nemesis.

In any case, stay tuned for 2009… here we come…

Lately I’ve come to the realization, that we are to blame for our own inability to promote Open Source and the adaptation of Open Source proficiency. Being an Open Source evangelist and consultant, this is very weird to be said by one like myself, however, this is my realization – and I will explain.

In the early days of Open Source adaptations (late 90’s, early 2000), Open Source software was a somewhat magical solution that meant: pay nothing, get more. Software packages like Linux, Apache, mySQL, PostgreSQL and programming languages like PERL and PHP had lowered the bar on the adaptation of new technologies, and enabled a prolific number of solutions and services.

I still remember the early days, when a Windows based Mail Relay would cost anything between 800$ to 1200$, and I would come in with a Linux based solution that would do the same thing for FREE – amazing. As time progressed, so did the technology and the penetration of Open Source into new fields. CRM, ERP, Telecoms, management – all of these now enjoy a diverse number of Open Source solutions. However, the original concept of ‘Open Source = Magical FREE Solution’ had still remained in the minds of managers and business people.

Today we are confronted with ‘would-be’ Open Source solution experts, which adopt and develop upon Open Source products and project various applications. In example, let’s take a look at Asterisk. Asterisk has a multitude of Open Source solutions, ranging from PBX system, Prepaid calling cards, Wholesale routing platforms, Attendance system, Presence systems – and even a plant watering solution. The problem with this ever growing number of solutions is that Asterisk is immediately considered to be: “A magical solution” capable of solving any problem – when it’s not even remotely related to Asterisk. For example, a friend of mine had been asked to develop an Asterisk based solution, that would support a total of 250 concurrent call initiations and up-to 3000 concurrent calls on the system. Any Asterisk developer would take a look at this, and would immediately say: “Hmmm…. this requires several servers, but hey, what about the application itself? that would also have an impact”. Now, the customer of the project has a ‘would-be’ Asterisk tech in his company which said: “I was able to initiate 200 concurrent SIP invites to Asterisk via SIPP, no problem’ – HELLO! STUPID! where’s the application? where’s the database? where’s the user information flow? comm’on, are you listening to yourself speak? or simply are filled with the gasses coming out of your ass that are affecting your brain?

Now, once the customer learns that Asterisk is most probably not the right solution for the problem, he becomes angry. Why? because he now learns that he needs to spend about 10 times more money than he anticipated for the creation of this tool – well, that’s life when you have no idea what you are doing/saying, and you believe in magical solutions. However, we – “The Open Source Community – is the one to blame for this scenario, because we got the world accustomed to the idea that Open Source is like magic – flip the Linux magic wand, and the rest will solve itself.

I’d like to open the floor for discussion on this, as I believe most of you will have something to say about this.

I guess web robots are funny creatures, especially when you write the weirdest stuff on your blog. For example, one of the my previous posts was about a movie I’ve seen lately, “You Don’t Mess With The Zohan”. Now, imagine my surprise to get into my inbox about 6 messages, from various web robots that had come across my post and tagged it along the Internet.

Now, this raises a very interesting question in my head: “Is it possible to create a logic bomb, that would render the entire web robots network into a frenzy?” – for example, let’s say I would like to sabotage the opening night of a movie I dislike. Technically, it would require me to open multiple websites that talk about this movie, then, make sure that the web robots find these pages – meaning, make the pages robot friendly, this will end up in a form of storm of robots on these pages, and most probably, a storm of robots on each other – interesting, isn’t it?

Here’s another question, let’s say I create 1000 web domains, all having the same web front page. All front pages simply include a list of links to a single website, listing all the available links on that website. If a robot encounters that page, will it start traversing the links to that website? and if there 1000 of these, will these automatically bring the Google page rank up? I’m no SEO expert, but my logic says yes.

Well, I guess it’s time to do some experimenting I guess…