Linux kernel team rejects University of Minnesota researchers’ apology

Enlarge / Do not anger the penguin, for it is extended of memory and slow to forgive.

Final 7 days, senior Linux kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman announced that all Linux patches coming from the University of Minnesota would be summarily rejected by default.

This plan adjust came as a consequence of three College of Minnesota researchers—Qiushi Wu, Kangjie Lu, and Aditya Pakki—embarking on a plan to examination the Linux kernel dev community’s resistance to what the group named “Hypocrite Commits.”

Testing the Linux kernel neighborhood

The trio’s scheme concerned very first locating three straightforward-to-repair, very low-precedence bugs in the Linux kernel and then repairing them—but fixing them in these a way as to entire what the UMN scientists referred to as an “immature vulnerability”:

We use a static-evaluation resource to identify 3 “immature vulnerabilities” in Linux, and correspondingly detect 3 authentic minimal bugs that are supposed to be preset. The “immature vulnerabilities” are not actual vulnerabilities because 1 problem (these types of as a use of a freed item) is even now missing […] We construct three incorrect or incomplete minimal patches to deal with the three bugs. These minimal patches even so introduce the missing ailments of the “immature vulnerabilities.”

The a few researchers would then electronic mail their Trojan-horse patches to Linux kernel maintainers, to see if the maintainers detected the additional serious difficulty the researchers had introduced in the system of fixing a slight bug. Once the maintainers responded to the submitted patch, the UMN researchers pointed out the bug released by their patch and supplied a “correct” patch—one which did not introduce a freshly exploitable condition—in its spot.

Lu, Wu, and Pakki published their findings in February at the 42nd IEEE Symposium on Protection and Privateness.

Preliminary response

Past week, senior Linux kernel dev Greg Kroah-Hartman reverted 68 patches submitted by individuals with umn.edu email addresses in response to these “Hypocrite Commits.” Together with reverting these 68 existing patches, Kroah-Hartman introduced a “default reject” plan for upcoming patches coming from anybody with an @umn.edu deal with.

Kroah-Hartman went on to permit exceptions for such potential patches if “they supply evidence and you can confirm it,” but he went on to check with “seriously, why waste your time performing that further operate?”

The University of Minnesota Division of Computer Science and Engineering responded to the ban by promptly “suspend[ing] this line of analysis,” promising to examine the researchers’ method—and the system by which it was approved.

Apology not acknowledged

This Saturday, the UMN analysis workforce apologized to the Linux local community by means of an open up letter posted to the Linux Kernel Mailing Listing. The nearly 800-term open up letter arrives throughout as additional “hold out, you really don’t comprehend” than apology:

We just want you to know that we would never ever intentionally hurt the Linux kernel neighborhood and by no means introduce protection vulnerabilities. Our operate was conducted with the ideal of intentions and is all about discovering and fixing safety vulnerabilities.

The “hypocrite commits” function was carried out in August 2020 it aimed to strengthen the stability of the patching method in Linux. As component of the project, we researched possible concerns with the patching method of Linux, including results in of the difficulties and recommendations for addressing them.

Kroah-Hartman acknowledged the letter Sunday but was evidently a lot less than impressed:

As you know, the Linux Basis and the Linux Foundation’s Technological Advisory Board submitted a letter on Friday to your College outlining the certain steps which require to happen in buy for your group, and your College, to be equipped to work to get back the trust of the Linux kernel group.

Till all those steps are taken, we do not have everything even further to explore about this situation.

We do not know at this time what steps, particularly, Kroah-Hartman and the Linux Foundation demand from the group and its college.

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