Open Source Foundations Warning: Social engineering and the threat to software integrity

Open Source Foundations Warning: Social engineering and the threat to software integrity


In the world of open source, collaboration and transparency are crucial. However, recently, attempts at social engineering acquisition have been detected, threatening the integrity of important projects. In this article, we will explore the case of the backdoor in XZ Utils and how the OpenSSF and OpenJS foundations are responding to this threat.

The Backdoor Incident in XZ Utils

Recently, maintainers of the XZ Utils project discovered a backdoor (CVE-2024-3094) in the latest versions of the tool. This backdoor allowed an attacker to take full control of affected Linux systems. The malicious actor behind this action was identified as JiaT575 or Jia Tan. This incident highlighted the need to be vigilant and take steps to protect open source projects.

The Threat of Social Engineering

Social engineering is a tactic used by cybercriminals to manipulate people and gain unauthorized access to systems or information. In the context of open source projects, this can involve attempts to acquire projects through deception or manipulation of maintainers. Attackers may present themselves as legitimate contributors or even offer funding to gain influence over the project.

The Response of Open Source Foundations

The OpenSSF and OpenJS foundations have been vigilant following the XZ Utils incident. They have shared threat patterns and warnings to help project maintainers protect themselves against social engineering. Some of the recommended measures include:

  1. Identity Verification: Maintainers should verify the identity of new contributors and carefully review membership requests to the project.
  2. Secure Communication: Use secure and authenticated communication channels to discuss code changes or important decisions.
  3. Transparency: Maintain transparency in project decisions and contributions.
  4. Education and Awareness: Educate contributors about the risks of social engineering and how to detect malicious attempts.


The open source community is taking steps to protect its projects and maintain user trust. Constant vigilance and collaboration among maintainers are essential to prevent future social engineering attempts. As developers, we must remain vigilant and work together to maintain the integrity of our software.