Prominent members of Anonymous have said that a open-source distro bearing the hacktivist group's moniker is nothing to do with them and is likely to be riddled with Trojans.
Anonymous OS Live – supposedly an Ubuntu-based OS, which advertises itself as being pre-loaded with various hacking tools and utilities (Tor, John the Ripper, SQL Poison etc) – appeared on SourceForge at the start of the week. The 1.5GB package achieved 37,000 downloads before SourceForge pulled the plug on Thursday afternoon, citing its "intentionally misleading name" and security concerns.
The person who uploaded the alpha software said that "Anonymous-OS Live is an Ubuntu-based distribution and created for educational purposes, to checking [sic] the security of web pages".
However accounts such as AnonOps described the distribution as a fake, which is pre-loaded: but with viruses and Trojans rather than hacking tools.
"The Anon OS is fake it is wrapped in trojans. RT," A tweet by AnonOps warns.
YourAnonNews repeats the warning, likening the latest incident to the appearance of the Zeus banking Trojan on a back-doored version of the Slowloris hacking tool released earlier this month.
"#Protip - Don't use Anonymous OS, we don't know anything about it and can't vouch for it," YourAnonNews concludes.
Rik Ferguson, a researcher at Trend Micro, told the BBC that the software was "a functional OS with a bunch of pre-installed tools that can be used for things like looking for [database] vulnerabilities or password cracking".
Versions of the Linux distro that have security tools already installed – such as Back Track – already exist, he added.
More security commentary on the appearance of the distro can be found on Sophos's Naked Security blog here.
Analysis to determine whether there actually are any viruses or Trojans buried in the code is yet to take place. Reviews of the software note that it contains a unmodified version of Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC), a DDoS tool linked to several arrests of Anonymous supporters. "I don't know how much more booby-trapped a tool can get than pointing authorities right back at your IP address, as LOIC does [if it is not] modified," writes Ars Technica, which describes the distro as "lame".
A statement by SourceForge explains its thinking on initially allowing the project to go ahead before its decision to pull the plug on downloads as security concerns increased.
We looked at the project, and decided that although the name of the project was misleading (we see no evidence that it is connected with Anonymous) it appeared, on initial glance, to be a security-related operating system, with, perhaps, an attack-oriented emphasis. We have, in the past, taken a consistent stance on “controversial” projects - that is, we don’t pass judgement based on what’s possible with a product, but rather consider it to be amoral - neither good nor bad - until someone chooses to take action with it.
However, as the day progressed, various security experts have had a chance to take a look at what’s really in this distribution, and verify that it is indeed a security risk, and not merely a distribution of security-related utilities, as the project page implies.
SourceForge said the lack of transparency from the project's creators meant that people are "taking a substantial risk in downloading and installing this distribution". The software distribution site therefore made a decision to move Anonymous OS Live offline and "suspend this project until we have more information that might lead us to think differently". ®