The Linux Foundation’s demands to the University of Minnesota for its bad Linux patches security project

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To say that Linux kernel developers are livid about a pair of University of Minnesota (UMN) graduate students playing at inserting security vulnerabilities into the Linux kernel for the purposes of a research paper “On the Feasibility of Stealthily Introducing Vulnerabilities in Open-Source Software via Hypocrite Commits” is a gross understatement. 

Greg Kroah-Hartman, the Linux kernel maintainer for the stable branch and well-known for being the most generous and easy-going of the Linux kernel maintainers, exploded and banned UMN developers from working on the Linux kernel. That was because their patches had been “obviously submitted in bad faith with the intent to cause problems.” 

The researchers, Qiushi Wu and Aditya Pakki, and their graduate advisor, Kangjie Lu, an assistant professor in the UMN Computer Science & Engineering Department of the UMN then apologized for their Linux kernel blunders. 

That’s not enough. The Linux kernel developers and the Linux Foundation’s Technical Advisory Board via the Linux Foundation have asked UMN to take specific actions before their people will be allowed to contribute to Linux again. We now know what these demands are.

The letter, from Mike Dolan, the Linux Foundation’s senior VP and general manager of projects, begins:

It has come to our attention that some University of Minnesota (U of MN) researchers appear to have been experimenting on people, specifically the Linux kernel developers, without those developers’ prior knowledge or consent. This was done by proposing known-vulnerable code into the widely-used Linux kernel as part of the work “On the Feasibility of Stealthily Introducing Vulnerabilities in Open-Source Software via Hypocrite Commits”; other papers and projects may be involved as well. It appears these experiments were performed without prior review or approval by an Institutional Review Board (IRB), which is not acceptable, and an after-the-fact IRB review approved this experimentation on those who did not consent.

This is correct. Wu and Lu opened their note to the UMN IRB by stating: “We recently finished a work that studies the patching process…