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Linux Stops Reverting Most University of Minnesota Patches, Admits Good Faith

Thursday April 29, 2021. 06:41 PM , from Slashdot
destinyland writes: LWN has a terrific update what's happened since the discovery of University of Minnesota researchers intentionally submitting buggy code to the Linux kernel:

The writing of a paper on this research [PDF] was not the immediate cause of the recent events; instead, it was the posting of a buggy patch originating from an experimental static-analysis tool run by another developer at UMN. That led developers in the kernel community to suspect that the effort to submit intentionally malicious patches was still ongoing. Since then, it has become apparent that this is not the case, but by the time the full story became clear, the discussion was already running at full speed.

The old saying still holds true: one should not attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.

On April 22, a brief statement was issued by the Linux Foundation technical advisory board (TAB) stating that, among other things, the recent patches appeared to have been submitted in good faith.

Meanwhile, the Linux Foundation and the TAB sent a letter to the UMN researchers outlining how the situation should be addressed; that letter has not been publicly posted, but ZDNet apparently got a copy from somewhere. Among other things, the letter asked for a complete disclosure of the buggy patches sent as part of the UMN project and the withdrawal of the paper resulting from this work.

In response, the UMN researchers posted an open letter apologizing to the community, followed a few days later by a summary of the work they did [PDF] as part of the 'hypocrite commits' project. Five patches were submitted overall from two sock-puppet accounts, but one of those was an ordinary bug fix that was sent from the wrong account by mistake. Of the remaining four, one of them was an attempt to insert a bug that was, itself, buggy, so the patch was actually valid; the other three (1, 2, 3) contained real bugs. None of those three were accepted by maintainers, though the reasons for rejection were not always the bugs in question.

The paper itself has been withdrawn and will not be presented in May as was planned...

One of the first things that happened when this whole affair exploded was the posting by Greg Kroah-Hartman of a 190-part patch series reverting as many patches from UMN as he could find... As it happens, these 'easy reverts' also needed manual review; once the initial anger passed there was little desire to revert patches that were not actually buggy. That review process has been ongoing over the course of the last week and has involved the efforts of a number of developers. Most of the suspect patches have turned out to be acceptable, if not great, and have been removed from the revert list; if your editor's count is correct, 42 patches are still set to be pulled out of the kernel...

A look at the full set of UMN patches reinforces some early impressions, though. First is that almost all of them do address some sort of real (if obscure and hard to hit) problem...

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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