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Florida IT Guy Arrested for 2011 Linux Hack

A Florida computer programmer has appeared in court after being arrested on suspicion of hacking the Linux Kernel Organization and Linux Foundation.

El Portal resident Donald Ryan Austin, 27, was arrested at the end of August after a traffic infringement and hit with a four-count indictment first produced on 23 June after a long-running investigation.

He has been charged with damaging four servers used to maintain and distribute the Linux operating system by remotely installing malware.

The indictment claims Austin managed to obtain the credentials of a Linux Kernel Organization employee, which he subsequently used to gain access before installing a self-injecting rootkit dubbed “Phalanx.”

He’s also accused of installing the Ebury trojan – malware designed to harvest the credentials of the admins using the targeted servers.

As a result, he has been charged on four counts of “intentional transmission causing damage to a protected computer.”

The maximum sentence facing Austin is a whopping 10 years behind bars and a fine of $250,000 plus restitution for each violation – so a total of 40 years.

Austin has apparently been released on bail set at $50,000 and will make his next appearance in front of a magistrate in San Francisco at the end of the month.

The attacks themselves occurred back in 2011 and took some Linux servers offline for nearly a month while their managers investigated further.

The Linux Kernel Organization, as the name suggests, distributes the Linux kernel from its site www.kernel.org, while the Linux Foundation is a separate non-profit which is tasked with promoting open source and Linux software.

Both are based in San Jose, California.

The Linux ecosystem is certainly no stranger to cybersecurity incidents. In July this year, Ubuntu Linux developer Canonical confirmed that an attack on its forum site led to the compromise of two million users’ personal information.

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