A former employee of web hosting provider HostGator has been arrested for allegedly installing a backdoor leading into the web host’s main server department. This would have given the employee unauthorised control over 2,700 of the host’s main servers.
The employee in question is Eric Gunnar Gisse, a 29-year-old from San Antonio, Texas. He was arrested and charged with breaching computer security by the Harris County district attorney in Texas.
During his time with HostGator, he worked as an administrator before being fired on February 15, 2012. According to an executive from HostGator, officials from the company discovered an application that would give Gisse access to the company’s servers from remote locations.
One of these remote locations was Hetzner Data Center in the German city of Nuremberg. The application was disguised as a UNIX administration application. For a period, this prevented officials from HostGator discovering the application.
According to an investigator for the Houston Police Department, Gordon Garrett, “Complainant told affiant he searched Hostgator’s computer network and found the unauthorized ‘pcre’ process installed on 2723 different HostGator servers within the computer network.”
So far, Gisse has not made a plea and the Harris County Jail has posted a $20,000 bond.
Patrick Pelanne, the COO of HostGator said the application was discovered in February 2012. This led to Gisse’s termination. He asserted no private customer data held on the servers had been used. He confirmed none of the content used by Gisse belonged to customers.
Pelanne was quick to reassure both customers and industry representatives by saying the company successfully detected the malware before Gisse had a chance to use any data.
Regardless of the web host’s diligence in detecting this threat, observers predict this will shake consumer confidence in the short-term, but the company’s future prospects over the next few years remain optimistic.