Article from Issue 185/2016

Updates on technologies, trends, and tools

Linux Foundation Eliminates Individual Membership

The Linux Foundation has apparently changed its bylaws so that individual members can no longer vote for the board of directors. Individual affiliates are now called "supporters," and a section of the bylaws that gives "individual affiliates" the right to appoint two or more directors has been removed.

Since the change was not accompanied by any official announcement from the Linux Foundation, the official reason for eliminating the individual affiliate membership category isn't fully known. One thing is clear: Reducing the power of individual members will increase the power of the corporate members who provide most of the funding for the Linux Foundation. See the story in The Register online for more information.

Yahoo Lays Off 15% of Its Workforce

Troubles continue for the legendary Internet giant Yahoo with the announcement that the company is laying off 15 percent of its staff. Write-offs on previous investments led to Yahoo posting a $4.4 billion loss in the fourth quarter of 2015, causing the need for decisive action to put the house in order and stave off an investor revolt.

The company will close several offices, including offices in Milan, Madrid, Dubai, and Mexico City. The layoffs are expected to save around $400 million per year in expenses. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has been under fire in recent months from investors who are impatient for the company to recover its footing. In many ways, it is remarkable that Yahoo still exists, considering it has given up much of its original market position in the search business to Google and Microsoft. The company has continued to operate a broad range of services and media while retaining enough stake in the search biz to keep a stream of ad revenue. The Yahoo board of directors is apparently considering all options, including a sale of the company, to maximize shareholder value.

Secret Backdoor Affects More Fortinet Firewalls

Security hardware vendor Fortinet has announced that the hidden backdoor in its Fortigate firewall devices, which was revealed earlier this month, affects more systems than previously thought. In a recent post, the company said the hidden backdoor with a hard-coded password, which the company described as a "remote management feature," had been removed in July 2014.

A later blog entry at the Fortinet site (dated January 20) admits the backdoor is still present in several current models. The company strongly recommends an immediate software update for users with the following Fortinet devices:

  FortiAnalyzer: 5.0.5 to 5.0.11 and 5.2.0 to 5.2.4 (branch 4.3 is not affected)

  FortiSwitch: 3.3.0 to 3.3.2

  FortiCache: 3.0.0 to 3.0.7 (branch 3.1 is not affected)

  FortiOS 4.1.0 to 4.1.10

  FortiOS 4.2.0 to 4.2.15

  FortiOS 4.3.0 to 4.3.16

  FortiOS 5.0.0 to 5.0.7

The company claims it created the backdoor to access its own products for management purposes, although they now acknowledge that building an undocumented backdoor with a hard-coded password was not an inspired choice for a security company. Sample code for exploiting the backdoor has already been posted online.

The announcement comes a month after the discovery of a backdoor in Juniper NetScreen firewall systems. According to reports, the Juniper backdoor was not created by the vendor but was slipped in without the knowledge of Juniper – possibly as a malicious refinement of an earlier exploit created by the NSA.

Users should upgrade their Fortinet and Juniper systems as soon as possible. If you own a different firewall device, you might want to take this as a wake-up call also to install any vendor updates – and keep an eye on your vendor's security blog. Something tells me we haven't seen the last of these secret firewall backdoors.

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