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Kernel Recipes 2019 - Kernel hacking behind closed doors

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The recent hardware security vulnerabilites exposed the kernel community to unprecedented restrictions and bureaucrazy. Pure software bugs which only affect the Linux kernel are a completely different category and the kernel community has established and well working ways to handle them.

Hardware issues like Meltdown, Spectre, L1TF etc. must be treated differently because they usually affect all Operating Systems and therefore need coordination across different OS vendors, distributions, hardware vendors and other parties. For some of the issues, software mitigations can depend on microcode or firmware updates, which need further coordination.

Meltdown/Spectre hit all affected parties completely unprepared, which was nicely reflected in the resulting chaos all over the place. With that experience the kernel community started to push for workable scenarios to handle these kind of issues as it was entirely clear to everyone that this was just the start and the tip of the iceberg.

This talk will take a look at the difference between hardware and software vulnerabilities, gives insight into the events surrounding Meltdown/Spectre and explains how the later issues, e.g. L1TF, have been dealt with. It also looks at the approach the kernel community has taken to further reduce the annoyance for future issues of that kind

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Kernel Recipes 2019 - Kernel hacking behind closed doors

  1. 1. Kernel hacking behind closed doors Thomas Gleixner Kernel-Recipes 2019
  2. 2. Software security bugs Software security bugs ● Affect usually only the Linux kernel. ● Security team can freely decide whom to bring in for addressing the issue. ● Aims for disclosure of fixes as soon as they are available. ● Coordinated release with a 7 days embargo, in exceptional cases 14 days.
  3. 3. For a long time …
  4. 4. Do we really have to deal with this?
  5. 5. Hardware security bugs Hardware security bugs ● Affect all OS vendors / projects ● Disclosure process to kernel developers is sensitive ● Disclosure of fixes needs industry wide coordination ● Potentially long embargo times due to dependency on firmware, microcode updates
  6. 6. Software vs. hardware security bugs Software security bugs ● Affect usually only the Linux kernel. ● Security team can freely decide whom to bring in for addressing the issue. ● Disclosure of fixes as soon as they are available. ● Coordinated release with a 7 days embargo, in exceptional cases 14 days. Hardware security bugs ● Affect all OS vendors / projects ● Disclosure process to kernel developers is sensitive ● Disclosure of fixes needs industry wide coordination ● Potentially long embargo times due to dependency on firmware, microcode updates
  7. 7. 2017 07/17 ● Several research teams discover Meltdown/Spectre ● Intel is disclosed and takes over coordination 08/17 ● Microsoft, Apple and others are disclosed ● „Don‘t worry about Linux, we are taking care of that“ 09/17 ● RedHat, Suse and other vendors are disclosed, but can‘t talk to each other ● Intel has separate teams for each vendor 10/17 ● Partial Meltdown disclosure to x86 maintainers ● Kaiser patches are posted 11/17 ● Microsoft releases Beta version with KPTI (discovered by Alex Ionescu) ● Kaiser patches are cleaned up and renamed to PTI 12/17 ● KPTI is gradually merged ● On Dec. 21th, Intel discloses Spectre to x86 maintainers 01/18 ● On Jan. 3rd, Meltdown/Spectre goes public five days early
  8. 8. Panic engineering ● Three different patch sets addressing Spectre ● All broken ● Discussion is leading nowhere due to lack of information ● Five people eight opinions
  9. 9. Panic engineering > +.macro WRMSR_ASM msr_nr:req edx_val:req eax_val:req > + movl msr_nr, %ecx > + movl edx_val, %edx > + movl eax_val, %eax > +.endm This is the most brilliant piece of useless code I've seen in a long time.
  10. 10. Panic engineering > Rather than continuing to debate it, perhaps it's best just to wait for > the US to wake up, and Intel to give a definitive answer. So here is the simple list of questions all to be answered with YES or NO. I don't want to see any of the 'but, though ...'. We all know by now that it's CPU dependent and slow and whatever and that IBRS_ATT will be in future CPUs. So get your act together and tell a clear YES or NO.
  11. 11. Going back to normal After 10 days of frenzy following the disclosure of the mess, I'm at a point where I think that we have reached a state where the main targets are covered... We all are exhausted and at our limits and I think we can agree that having the most problematic stuff covered is the right point to calm down and put the heads back on the chickens. Take a break and have a few drinks at least over the weekend! To be honest the last 10 days were more horrible than the whole PTI work due to lack of documentation, 12 different opinions when asking 8 people (why does this have a lawyer smell?) and an amazing amount of half baken and hastily cobbled together crap. Please let‘s stop this and return to normality now.
  12. 12. Agreement between community and vendors ● Industry wide collaboration ● No compartementation ● Full information disclosure is required ● Upstream first
  13. 13. How to communicate securely? ● Keybase IO ? ● Maintain CC lists and PGP encrypt everything ? ● Not only Linus hates PGP for good reasons ● Encrypted mailing-lists to the rescue
  14. 14. Encrypted mailinglist ● Only a few projects ● Some are abandoned ● One is S/MIME only ● One is PGP only
  15. 15. Encrypted mailinglist - Test ● Install on your mail server !?! ● Got it „running“ in a secured VM on a secured host ● Three out of ten emails break it ● List engine in the middle of a maze of webservices, mail transport, SQL and other unpenetratable Ruby code ● What now?
  16. 16. Encrypted mailinglist - DIY ● Python to the rescue ● Trivial pipe based script, no mail transport except SMTP to localhost. Getmail just works (most of the time) ● Yaml based configuration managed via git ● S/MIME + PGP in and out ● Python2 email handling sucks ● Three days later ….
  17. 17. Encrypted mailinglist - DIY ● Break a few corporate mail servers ● Deal with all sorts of mail clients ● Distangle the all in one script into proper python ● Switch from pipe to maildir ● Convert to Python3 After 18 month and more than 3500 incoming mails handled: https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/tglx/remail.git
  18. 18. Encrypted mailinglist - DIY maildir remail daemon (Mail Retrieval Agent) SMTP Public Mailserver F I R E W A L L Secured Listserver Poison cabinet
  19. 19. SSB, L1TF, MDS ● Working together ● Upstream first aligns community and vendors ● Almost business as usual ● Still there is a problem
  20. 20. The problem ● Bringing in experts is painful ● The disclosure and handling is controlled by lawyers ● The universal lawyer tool for this are NDAs ● NDAs are not workable as the Kernel community is not a formal body ● What now?
  21. 21. Solution #1
  22. 22. Solution #1 Violates the Code of Conduct
  23. 23. Solution #2 ● Provide a formal process ● Provide a NDA substitute
  24. 24. Formal process ● Separate point of contact ● Solely for Hardware security issues ● Published list of security officers ● Encrypted mailing lists ● Strict disclosure rules for kernel developers (domain experts). Aware of potential conflicts of interest ● Disclosed kernel developers adhere to a Memorandum of Understanding ● Embargo / disclosure coordination accross the industry See: https://www.kernel.org/doc/html/latest/process/embargoed-hardware-issues.html
  25. 25. Memorandum Of Understanding The Linux kernel community has a deep understanding of the requirement to keep hardware security issues under embargo for coordination between different OS vendors, distributors, hardware vendors and other parties. The Linux kernel community has successfully handled hardware security issues in the past and has the necessary mechanisms in place to allow community compliant development under embargo restrictions. The Linux kernel community has a dedicated hardware security team for initial contact, which oversees the process of handling such issues under embargo rules. The hardware security team identifies the developers (domain experts) who will form the initial response team for a particular issue. The initial response team can bring in further developers (domain experts) to address the issue in the best technical way. All involved developers pledge to adhere to the embargo rules and to keep the received information confidential. Violation of the pledge will lead to immediate exclusion from the current issue and removal from all related mailing-lists. In addition, the hardware security team will also exclude the offender from future issues. The impact of this consequence is a highly effective deterrent in our community. In case a violation happens the hardware security team will inform the involved parties immediately. If you or anyone becomes aware of a potential violation, please report it immediately to the Hardware security officers.
  26. 26. Formal process Initial report Hardware security team Valid? Private response to reporter Setup initial mailing list Discussion, form initial response team Setup mailing list Handoff to response team Disclosure to initial response team Initial discussion, Adding experts Development Disclosure to initial response team Adding experts Embargo ends Patches go public Handling of conflcts, etc. Disclosing party HWSec team Response team N
  27. 27. Industry acceptance ● All major players agreed ● Established process embassadors ● But ...
  28. 28. Hopefully we won‘t ever need that again. At least not before I retired. Thomas Gleixner 2019

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