"These security issues need to be fixed as soon as possible," Tosatti told CNET News.com in an interview Monday. As maintainer, Tosatti decides what changes can be made to the kernel and when to release new versions of the core system software for Linux.
The , which occurs in a function used by virtual memory, resembles a vulnerability fixed in late November that had been exploited by unknown attackers to control several key Linux servers open-source developers use. Both flaws allow an intruder to increase the privileges of a normal user account to the same level as the system's owner.
Tosatti said that once it became clear that the latest flaw could be used to circumvent security on Linux systems, he and other developers
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decided to immediately release the fixes. The move follows decisions by the kernel developers to curtail new features in the 2.4 kernel series in order to get developers and users to move to the next generation of core Linux software, the 2.6 kernel. The final set of features that had been intended for this release of the kernel have been postponed until the next version, he said.
"It is good that I have the ability--because this is open source--to release the code so quickly," Tosatti said.
The second security flaw results in a device driver problem that could allow an intruder to read some memory the kernel uses.
The latest version of the kernel can be downloaded from Kernel.org. Patches for specific Linux distributions can be downloaded from their developers.