Open Source Developer Intentionally Corrupts His Own Widely-Used Libraries


“Users of popular open-source libraries ‘colors’ and ‘faker’ were left stunned after they saw their applications, using these libraries, printing gibberish data and breaking..” reports BleepingComputer.

“The developer of these libraries intentionally introduced an infinite loop that bricked thousands of projects that depend on ‘colors and ‘faker’.”

The colors library receives over 20 million weekly downloads on npm alone, and has almost 19,000 projects depending on it. Whereas, faker receives over 2.8 million weekly downloads on npm, and has over 2,500 dependents….

Yesterday, users of popular open-source projects, such as Amazon’s Cloud Development Kit were left stunned on seeing their applications print gibberish messages on their console. These messages included the text ‘LIBERTY LIBERTY LIBERTY’ followed by a sequence of non-ASCII characters… The developer, named Marak Squires added a “new American flag module” to colors.js library yesterday in version v1.4.44-liberty-2 that he then pushed to GitHub and npm. The infinite loop introduced in the code will keep running indefinitely; printing the gibberish non-ASCII character sequence endlessly on the console for any applications that use ‘colors.’ Likewise, a sabotaged version ‘6.6.6’ of faker was published to GitHub and npm….

The reason behind this mischief on the developer’s part appears to be retaliation — against mega-corporations and commercial consumers of open-source projects who extensively rely on cost-free and community-powered software but do not, according to the developer, give back to the community. In November 2020, Marak had warned that he will no longer be supporting the big corporations with his “free work” and that commercial entities should consider either forking the projects or compensating the dev with a yearly “six figure” salary….

Some dubbed this an instance of “yet another OSS developer going rogue,” whereas InfoSec expert VessOnSecurity called the action “irresponsible,” stating: “If you have problems with business using your free code for free, don’t publish free code. By sabotaging your own widely used stuff, you hurt not only big business but anyone using it. This trains people not to update, ‘coz stuff might break.”

GitHub has reportedly suspended the developer’s account. And, that too, has caused mixed reactions… “Removing your own code from [GitHub] is a violation of their Terms of Service? WTF? This is a kidnapping. We need to start decentralizing the hosting of free software source code,” responded software engineer Sergio Gómez.
“While it looks like color.js has been updated to a working version, faker.js still appears to be affected, but the issue can be worked around by downgrading to a previous version (5.5.3),” reports the Verge:

Even more curiously, the faker.js Readme file has also been changed to “What really happened with Aaron Swartz…?”

Squires’ bold move draws attention to the moral — and financial — dilemma of open-source development, which was likely the goal of his actions.





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