The University of Minnesota isn’t making any friends in the Linux community. Phoronix reported that Greg Kroah-Hartman, the Fellow at the Linux Foundation responsible for stable releases of the Linux kernel, has banned the University from contributing to that kernel after two students purposely added faulty code to it.
The students in question published a research paper titled “On the Feasibility of Stealthily Introducing Vulnerabilities in Open-Source Software via Hypocrite Commits” on February 10. Those so-called “hypocrite commits” were defined as “seemingly beneficial commits that in fact introduce other critical issues.”
Although the paper was ostensibly focused on open source software generally, the students devoted much of their attention to the Linux kernel specifically because it’s so popular. The kernel is practically ubiquitous—it’s found in everything from single-board computers like the Raspberry Pi to the most powerful supercomputers.
All of which is to say that Linux is vital. It would make sense, then, for the person responsible for the Linux kernel’s stable release branch to be upset about those students’ efforts to undermine that project. Kroah-Hartman made his stance on the issue clear in a message posted to the Linux kernel mailing list earlier today:
“Our community does not appreciate being experimented on, and being ‘tested’ by submitting known patches that are either do nothing [sic] on purpose, or introduce bugs on purpose. If you wish to do work like this, I suggest you find a different community to run your experiments on, you are not welcome here.”
Kroah-Hartman also said that he “will now have to ban all future contributions from
your University and rip out your previous contributions, as they were obviously submitted in bad-faith with the intent to cause problems.” It seems that research conducted by two students will now affect the entire University of Minnesota.
That actually includes five schools spread across Crookston, Duluth, Morris, Rochester, and Twin Cities. We’ve reached out to the overarching University of Minnesota as well as Kroah-Hartman to learn more about the full extent of the ban and will update this post if either responds to our request for more information.