I am 99.9% sure that my system on my personal computer has been infiltrated. Allow me to first give my reasoning so the situation will be clear:

Rough timeline of suspicious activity and subsequent actions taken:

4-26 23:00
I ended all programs and closed my laptop.

4-27 12:00
I opened my laptop after it had been in suspend mode for about 13 hours. Multiple windows were open including: Two chrome windows, system settings, software center. On my desktop there was a git installer (I checked, it has not been installed).

4-27 13:00
Chrome history displayed logins to my email, and other search history that I did not initiate (between 01:00 and 03:00 on 4-27), including "installing git". There was a tab, Digital Ocean "How to customize your bash prompt" open in my browser. It reopened several times after I closed it. I tightened security in Chrome.

I disconnected from WiFi, but when I reconnected there was an up-down arrow symbol instead of the standard symbol, and there was no longer a list of networks in the drop down menu for Wifi
Under 'Edit Connections' I noticed my laptop had connected to a network called "GFiberSetup 1802" at ~05:30 on 4-27. My neighbors at 1802 xx Drive just had google fiber installed, so I'm guessing it's related.

4-27 20:30
The who command revealed that a second user named guest-g20zoo was logged into my system. This is my private laptop that runs Ubuntu, there should not be anyone else on my system. Panicking, I ran sudo pkill -9 -u guest-g20zoo and disabled Networking and Wifi

I looked in /var/log/auth.log and found this:

Apr 27 06:55:55 Rho useradd[23872]: new group: name=guest-g20zoo, GID=999  
Apr 27 06:55:55 Rho useradd[23872]: new user: name=guest-g20zoo, UID=999, GID=999, home=/tmp/guest-g20zoo, shell=/bin/bash    
Apr 27 06:55:55 Rho su[23881]: Successful su for guest-g20zoo by root  
Apr 27 06:55:55 Rho su[23881]: + ??? root:guest-g20zoo  
Apr 27 06:55:55 Rho su[23881]: pam_unix(su:session): session opened for user guest-g20zoo by (uid=0)  
Apr 27 06:55:56 Rho systemd: pam_unix(systemd-user:session): session opened for user guest-g20zoo by (uid=0)  
Apr 27 06:55:56 Rho systemd-logind[767]: New session c3 of user guest-g20zoo.  
Apr 27 06:55:56 Rho su[23881]: pam_unix(su:session): session closed for user guest-g20zoo  
Apr 27 06:55:56 Rho systemd-logind[767]: Removed session c3.  
Apr 27 06:55:56 Rho lightdm: pam_unix(lightdm-autologin:session): session opened for user guest-g20zoo by (uid=0)  
Apr 27 06:55:56 Rho systemd: pam_unix(systemd-user:session): session closed for user guest-g20zoo  
Apr 27 06:55:56 Rho systemd-logind[767]: New session c4 of user guest-g20zoo.  
Apr 27 06:55:56 Rho systemd: pam_unix(systemd-user:session): session opened for user guest-g20zoo by (uid=0)  
Apr 27 06:56:51 Rho pkexec: pam_unix(polkit-1:session): session opened for user root by (uid=1000)  
Apr 27 06:56:51 Rho pkexec: pam_systemd(polkit-1:session): Cannot create session: Already running in a session

Sorry it's a lot of output, but that's the bulk of activity from guest-g20zoo in the log, all within a couple of minutes.

I also checked /etc/passwd:


And /etc/shadow:


I don't entirely understand what this output means for my situation. Are guest-g20zoo and guest-G4J7WQ the same user?

lastlog shows:

guest-G4J7WQ      Never logged in

However, last shows:

guest-g20zoo      Wed Apr 27 06:55 - 20:33 (13:37)

So it seems like they are not the same user, but guest-g20zoo was nowhere to be found in the output of lastlog.

I would like to block access for user guest-g20zoo but since (s)he doesn't appear in /etc/shadow and I'm assuming doesn't use a password to login, but uses ssh, will passwd -l guest-g20zoo work?

I tried systemctl stop sshd, but got this error message:

Failed to stop sshd.service: Unit sshd.service not loaded

Does this mean remote login was already disabled on my system, and therefore the above command is redundant?

I have tried to find more information about this new user, like what ip address they logged in from, but I can't seem to find anything.

Some potentially relevant information:
Currently I'm connected to my university's network, and my WiFi icon looks fine, I can see all my network options, and there aren't any weird browsers popping up on their own. Does this indicate that whoever is logging into my system is within range of my WiFi router at my home?

I ran chkrootkit and everything seemed fine, but I also don't know how to interpret all the output. I don't really know what to do here. I just want to be absolutely sure this person (or anyone else for that matter) will never be able to access my system again and I want to find and remove any hidden files created by them. Please and Thank You!

P.S. - I already changed my password and encrypted my important files while WiFi and Networking were disabled.

  • Are there any entries in the auth log which have sshd after the server name? If not then there's definitely been no ssh access.. unless they cleaned up that part of the log, and didn't bother cleaning the other entries, which would be strange.
    – Arronical
    Apr 29, 2016 at 8:48
  • 17
    Nuke it from orbit! Apr 29, 2016 at 9:29
  • 1
    and then change all your passwords
    – njzk2
    Apr 30, 2016 at 2:30
  • @Arronical There are no entries which have sshd after the server name, but I agree that removing that information but still leaving traces of themselves is odd. Is there any other way to check for a trace that my someone has ssh'd into my system?
    – Rosemary S
    Apr 30, 2016 at 22:12
  • 1
    If you have a solution, please post it as an answer and mark it as accepted.
    – muru
    May 4, 2016 at 9:38

6 Answers 6


Wipe the hard drive and reinstall your operating system from scratch.

In any case of unauthorised access there is the possibility the attacker was able to get root privileges, so it is sensible to assume that it happened. In this case, auth.log appears to confirm this was indeed the case - unless this was you that switched user:

Apr 27 06:55:55 Rho su[23881]: Successful su for guest-g20zoo by root

With root privileges in particular, they may have messed with the system in ways which are practically impossible to fix without a reinstall, such as by modifying boot scripts or installing new scripts and applications that run at boot, and so on. These could do things like run unauthorised network software (ie to form part of a botnet), or leave backdoors into your system. Trying to detect and repair this sort of thing without a reinstall is messy at best, and not guaranteed to rid you of everything.

  • 6
    Not even this will work if they installed some malware into the hardware, such as if they flashed the hard drive's firmware. Apr 29, 2016 at 5:57
  • 7
    That log line you're citing means that root user switched to guest-g20zoo, not the other way around. Apr 29, 2016 at 7:36
  • 4
    @JanDvorak Do you have an example of HDD firmware acting as Linux backdoor? Apr 29, 2016 at 7:39
  • 1
    I would have to agree, if you are at all unsure about the reliability of your os, and fear you may miss something, simply backup your data and re-install the os, personally I would switch hdds, but only so I could pull information off the old OS and find out who hacked me:)
    – GMasucci
    Apr 29, 2016 at 8:21
  • 9
    @DmitryGrigoryev but if they can su to another account from root, that means they are root.
    – Léo Lam
    Apr 29, 2016 at 10:09

It looks like someone opened a guest session on your laptop while you where away from your room. If I were you I'd ask around, that may be a friend.

The guest accounts you see in /etc/passwd and /etc/shadow are not suspicious to me, they are created by the system when someone open a guest session.

Apr 27 06:55:55 Rho su[23881]: Successful su for guest-g20zoo by root

This line means root has access to the guest account, which could be normal but should be investigated. I've tried on my ubuntu1404LTS and don't see this behaviour. You should try to login with a guest session and grep your auth.log to see if this line appear everytime a guest user logs in.

All the opened windows of chrome, that you've seen when you opened your laptop. Is it possible that you were seeing the guest session desktop ?

  • This is the only sensible, informed, and non-kneejerk answer.
    – pipe
    Apr 30, 2016 at 16:40
  • The only other person who has access to my laptop is my husband, I never leave it unattended at school or in public. Also, I modified the lightdm.conf.d file to disallow Guest Session login a while ago. I think I was seeing the guest session desktop. However, I realized my laptop no longer suspends when the lid shuts, and it's a touch screen. So is it possible that windows on my desktop (not tabs in chrome) could be opened if areas of the screen were being pushed against while it was closed? Just trying to figure out what is what here.
    – Rosemary S
    Apr 30, 2016 at 21:44
  • 1
    Multiple windows being opened after waking from suspend is [SOLVED]. My laptop no longer suspends upon closing the lid, it's a touch screen. It gets pushed around in my backpack, and I caught my cats walking on it at home. I've tested my theory, windows were opened due to this issue. I was not seeing the guest session desktop.
    – Rosemary S
    May 3, 2016 at 17:16

I just want to mention that "multiple browser tabs/windows open, Software Center open, files downloaded to desktop" is not very consistent with someone logging into your machine via SSH. An attacker logging via SSH would get a text console which is completely separate from what you see on your desktop. They also wouldn't need to google "how to install git" from your desktop session because they'd be sitting in front of their own computer, right? Even if they wanted to install Git (why?), they wouldn't need to download an installer because Git is in Ubuntu repositories, anyone who knows anything about Git or Ubuntu knows that. And why did they have to google how to customize bash prompt?

I also suspect that "There was a tab... open in my browser. It reopened several times after I closed it" was actually multiple identical tabs open so you had to close them one by one.

What I'm trying to say here is that the pattern of activity resembles a "monkey with a typewriter".

You also did not mention you even had SSH server installed - it is not installed by default.

So, if you're absolutely sure nobody had physical access your laptop without your knowledge, and your laptop has a touchscreen, and it doesn't suspend properly, and it spent some time in your backpack then I think it all can be simply a case of "pocket calling" - random screen touches combined with search suggestions and auto-correction opened multiple windows and performed google searches, clicking on random links and downloading random files.

As a personal anecdote - it happens from time to time with my smartphone in my pocket, including opening multiple apps, changing system settings, sending semi-coherent SMS messages and watching random youtube videos.

  • ... or in my case ... deleting all texts from one friend ...
    – andy256
    May 3, 2016 at 23:25

Do you have any friends that like to access your laptop remotely/physically while you're gone? If not:

Wipe the HDD with DBAN and reinstall the OS from scratch. Be sure to backup first.

Something may have been severely compromised within Ubuntu itself. When you reinstall:

Encrypt /home. If the HDD/laptop itself is ever physically stolen, they cannot gain access to the data within /home.

Encrypt the HDD. This prevents people from compromising /boot without logging in. You will also have to enter a boot-time password(I think).

Set a strong password. If someone figures out the HDD password, they cannot access /home or login.

Encrypt your WiFi. Someone may have gotten within the router's proximity and taken advantage of unencrypted Wifi and ssh'd into your laptop.

Disable the guest account. The attacker may have ssh'd into your laptop, gotten a remote connection, logged in via Guest, and elevated the Guest account to root. This is a dangerous situation. If this happened, the attacker could run this VERY DANGEROUS command:

rm -rf --no-preserve-root / 

This erases A LOT of data on the HDD, trashes /home, and even worse, leaves Ubuntu completely unable to even boot. You will just get thrown into grub rescue, and you will not be able to recover from this. The attacker could also completely destroy the /home directory, and so on. If you have a home network, the attacker could also all the other computers on that network unable to boot(if they run Linux).

I hope this helps. :)

  • 1
    Why DBAN? Recreating partition table should be entirely sufficient, not to mention that DBAN would severely hurt a SSD if OP has one.
    – gronostaj
    Apr 29, 2016 at 19:50
  • why should a hacker run rm -rf /? he is going to grab all your data. wiping out data does not make any sense. Apr 30, 2016 at 22:30
  • btw. NEVER run rm -rf / it might brick your complete machine, as old linux versions (older than 4.5) do not protect the UEFI and you would damage it, if you are removing a few files from /sys/firmware/efi/efivars/. May 1, 2016 at 8:55

The "suspicious" activity is explained by the following: my laptop no longer suspends when the lid is closed, the laptop is a touch screen and reacted to applied pressure (possibly my cats). The provided lines from /var/log/auth.log, and the output of the who command are consistent with a guest session login. While I disabled guest session login from the greeter, it is still accessible from the drop down menu in the upper right hand corner in the Unity DE. Ergo, a guest session can be opened while I am logged in.

I have tested the "applied pressure" theory; windows can and do open while the lid is closed. I also logged into a new guest session. Log lines identical to what I perceived as suspicious activity were present in /var/log/auth.log after I did this. I switched users, back to my account, and ran the who command - the output indicated there was a guest logged into the system.

The up-down arrow WiFi logo has reverted to the standard WiFi logo, and all the available connections are visible. This was a problem with our network, and is unrelated.


Pull out the wireless card/stick and look over the traces. Make a record of your logs so askbuntu can help further. After that wipe your drives and try a different distro, try a live cd leave it running to see if there's a pattern to the attacks.

  • 3
    Why would he want to look at the wifi card traces... ?
    – Keith M
    Apr 29, 2016 at 18:28
  • 4
    For that matter, why would he pull out his wifi card at all
    – Keith M
    Apr 29, 2016 at 21:11
  • 1
    @KeithM have you ever pulled the wifi card of a laptop? this laptop will never be infected again.... ;-) be sure to make a backup before you pull the card ... Apr 30, 2016 at 22:28

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