OpenJS Foundation Thwarts Social Engineering Scheme Mirroring XZ Backdoor Incident

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OpenJS Foundation Thwarts Social Engineering Scheme Mirroring XZ Backdoor Incident

An eerie social engineering effort, reminiscent of the XZ Utils backdoor incident, was highlighted in a report by the OpenJS Foundation, revealing a broader pattern of social engineering attacks targeting open source projects. According to Robin Bender Ginn, the OpenJS Foundation's executive director, and Omkhar Arasaratnam, general manager at OpenSSF, this incident involved suspicious attempts to infiltrate the Foundation's email communications. These attempts aimed to assign new maintainers to key projects under false pretenses, mirroring tactics used in the XZ Utils incident where attackers employed fictitious personas to gain undue influence within open source communities. The attackers sent email messages to the OpenJS Foundation, pressing for critical updates on popular JavaScript projects without specifying vulnerabilities and sought to elevate themselves to maintainer status despite minimal involvement with the projects.

"The OpenJS Foundation Cross Project Council received a suspicious series of emails with similar messages, bearing different names and overlapping GitHub-associated emails. These emails implored OpenJS to take action to update one of its popular JavaScript projects to 'address any critical vulnerabilities,' yet cited no specifics. The email author(s) wanted OpenJS to designate them as a new maintainer of the project despite having little prior involvement," as explained in the report. This strategy aligns with previous attacks where perpetrators created detailed fake identities, slowly building trust within the community before attempting to introduce malicious code. The OpenJS Foundation and OpenSSF, aware of these patterns, have cautioned other open source maintainers about these social engineering tactics that aim to exploit the community-oriented nature of open source projects.

In response to these threats, the OpenJS Foundation has not granted any access to the suspicious parties and has reinforced security protocols among its projects. It is actively working with cybersecurity agencies like the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to monitor and address these threats. The Foundation has also shared best practices with the broader community, encouraging the use of strong authentication methods like two-factor authentication (2FA) and thorough vetting of contributions to protect against similar attacks.

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