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Scary Linux exploit allows hackers to take complete control of a device

The 'Dirty COW' exploit has reportedly been around for years

Photo (c) hywards - Fotolia
The Linux operating system has long been considered a more open alternative to the Windows and Mac versions. The software development is much more open-ended, which can be a big drawing point for consumers who want more independence and freedom.

However, users of Linux are being warned of a dangerous security flaw that could allow a hacker to gain full access to any device running on the system. The kernel exploit, which has been named “Dirty COW,” was discovered by network administrator and security researcher Phil Oester.

Although completely losing control of your device is scary enough in its own right, what’s perhaps even more frightening is that this exploit has been around for some time, and it’s not that hard to execute.

“The exploit in the wild is trivial to execute, never fails and has probably been around for yars – the version I obtained was compiled with gcc 4.8. As Linus [Torvalds] notes in his commit, this is an ancient bug and impacts kernels going back many years. All Linux users need to take this bug very seriously, and patch their systems ASAP,” said Oester.

Oester and other security experts suspect that the flaw has been around since 2007. Basically, the flaw centers on how the Linux kernel addresses “copy-on-write” (COW) breakage of private read-only memory mappings.” A hacker who successfully uses the exploit is able to elevate their security privileges on any device using the Linux system, effectively allowing them to take it over.

A patch for the flaw has already produced for the kernel, with organizations preparing additional security patches for all users. For more information on Dirty COW, now logged as CVE-2016-5195, watch the video below produced by YouTube user LiveOverflow.

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