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I have 2 very old Linux servers (1 running RHEL ES release 2.1 and the other FC release 3 - both severely under patched [sorry]) that spontaneously rebooted at exactly [to the second] the same time last Thursday. This happened again yesterday [Tuesday] 5 times! I have lots of Windows & Solaris servers on the same power supply that were not affected - I only have these two Linux servers.

Things I've considered :- There are no hardware issues reported on either server. Only one of them is running the client software needed by the UPS management system [which logs show no recent actions]. There is no local or remote cron/at job also the reboots are at random [AFAIK] times. "last -x" shows nothing [IMHO] useful, which is the same for messages, syslog, secure logs.

I'm currently thinking malicious activity exploiting some [un-patched] Linux vulnerability [more than likely] being called remotely and possibly using some level of broadcast to trip vulnerable nodes - but I am paranoid :)

Its only happening during the day so I'm thinking the source maybe a users workstation [all windows] that is only on during work hours.

My questions are :- 1. Is my paranoid theory viable? 2. How could I trap the source of the reboots?

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It could be something as simple as dirty power. Are these the only machines on this power strip/plug?

Unplug the machine from the network if you think it's being rebooted remotely for any reason (if possible), and you can eliminate that.

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I like your suggeston about unplugging the network cable from one of the machines! – Brent Jul 8 '09 at 17:30
+1 for getting it clearly and before me – nik Jul 8 '09 at 17:34
+1 - Check power first. It may be something network-related as well, but it doesn't have to be malicious. Since both are severely under-patched, you might be getting hit with a bug in the network stack. (Which could be exploitable.. but if so, the first question to answer is where is the bad traffic coming from?) – romandas Jul 8 '09 at 19:18
Thanks - I will definitely unplug one of the servers to at least show if the source is remote or not. – graemeb Jul 9 '09 at 7:36
Forgot to add - the UPS runs 12 power strips and these two servers are on seperate strips – graemeb Jul 9 '09 at 8:01

Thanks for all the suggestions. I think its now solved - no malicious intent was found. Unbeknown to me [I'm a remote worker] but our PC Support had plugged my 2 servers into an IP KVM about a month ago. It would appear that through the act of them logging onto their windows servers the CTRL-ALT-DEL signal must leak outside of the intended target and get picked up by other connected nodes. As I'm sure you're aware C-A-D if left in default mode [as mine were] causes Linux servers to reboot. I managed to capture some pertinent info by running & logging a "ps -ef" every second - it showed at the time of reboot the command used was "/sbin/shutdown -t3 -r 0 w" which translates to the trap in /etc/inittab. So mystery solved (yn) but I've found a valuable source of expert knowledge outside of my usual google-world. Thanks again

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Thanks for sharing your solution. That sure is one of those mysteries which at first will make you want to bang your head against a wall, later makes a nice story to tell your geeky friends. – Marie Fischer Jul 9 '09 at 22:51

It sounds like you are on the right track thinking that this could by a compromise - especially if both servers have the same user accounts/passwords.

  • First thing I would do is run chkrootkit or rkhunter and see if they find anything. (not sure if these will work if installed after a compromise has already happened or not)

  • Second thing would be to enable remote logging, and figure out exactly what happened immediately prior to the reboot.

  • A third suggestion might be to install munin or something similar to track your cpu/memory usage prior to the reboot.

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Thanks Brent - Am interested in your 2nd suggestion. How do I enable remote logging? – graemeb Jul 9 '09 at 7:34
On my Debian machines - I add a line to /etc/syslog.conf "*.notice @remote.log.server" to send the logs to remote.log.server. Then on remote.log.server you can add the "-r" switch to the /etc/init.d/syslogd startup script to cause it to receive the remote logs. In our case we run syslog-ng on our remote.log.server, as it has some better options for separating out the logs into machine-based subdirectories. – Brent Jul 9 '09 at 15:44
Thanks for taking the time to help Brent :) – graemeb Jul 9 '09 at 20:43

Have you checked if they are on the same power patch?
If your power problem is between the UPS and the machines, it wont show on the logs.

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I you cannot unplug them from the network, I would sniff the network traffic.

Not sure if running tcpdump on the affected machines itself is a good idea, but you can use either port mirroring on your switch or plug them temporarily into an old hub (not switch) and use a seperate machine to run tcpdump/wireshark/whatever you like.

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Thanks - I will look into running tcpdump although I suspect the logs will become too onerous given the servers stayed up all day yesterday. I had set a netstat logging at 1sec but this showed nothing. – graemeb Jul 9 '09 at 7:39

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