Open source groups say more software projects may have been targeted for sabotage

FILE PHOTO: Figurines with computers and smartphones are seen in front of the words "Cyber Security" in this illustration taken, February 19, 2024. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The recent attempt by an unknown actor to sabotage a widely used software program may have been one of several attempts to subvert key pieces of digital infrastructure across the internet, two open source groups said in an alert published on Monday.

In a joint statement, the Open Source Security Foundation and the OpenJS Foundation said the attempt to insert a secret backdoor into XZ Utils - a little-known program that is baked into Linux operating systems across the world - "may not be an isolated incident."

They said at least three different JavaScript projects were targeted by unnamed individuals demanding suspicious updates or asking to be made maintainers of the targeted software.

The JavaScript programming language powers much of the modern web and sees intensive use across the world. Omkhar Arasaratnam, the Open Source Security Foundation's general manager, said that one of the targeted packages alone saw tens of millions of downloads a week.

He declined to identify the JavaScript projects by name, saying he wanted to protect an ongoing investigation.

Arasaratnam also said that while it wasn't clear what the suspected malicious actors were hoping to do - "we stopped them before they got that far" - he suspected they hoped to build backdoors into those projects as well.

The OpenJS and Open Source Security Foundations said they had warned the U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency about the suspected infiltration. The agency did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

(Reporting by Raphael Satter; Editing by Josie Kao and Leslie Adler)

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