codeblog code is freedom — patching my itch

October 22, 2018

security things in Linux v4.19

Filed under: Blogging,Chrome OS,Debian,Kernel,Security,Ubuntu,Ubuntu-Server — kees @ 4:17 pm

Previously: v4.18.

Linux kernel v4.19 was released today. Here are some security-related things I found interesting:

L1 Terminal Fault (L1TF)

While it seems like ages ago, the fixes for L1TF actually landed at the start of the v4.19 merge window. As with the other speculation flaw fixes, lots of people were involved, and the scope was pretty wide: bare metal machines, virtualized machines, etc. LWN has a great write-up on the L1TF flaw and the kernel’s documentation on L1TF defenses is equally detailed. I like how clean the solution is for bare-metal machines: when a page table entry should be marked invalid, instead of only changing the “Present” flag, it also inverts the address portion so even a speculative lookup ignoring the “Present” flag will land in an unmapped area.

protected regular and fifo files

Salvatore Mesoraca implemented an O_CREAT restriction in /tmp directories for FIFOs and regular files. This is similar to the existing symlink restrictions, which take effect in sticky world-writable directories (e.g. /tmp) when the opening user does not match the owner of the existing file (or directory). When a program opens a FIFO or regular file with O_CREAT and this kind of user mismatch, it is treated like it was also opened with O_EXCL: it gets rejected because there is already a file there, and the kernel wants to protect the program from writing possibly sensitive contents to a file owned by a different user. This has become a more common attack vector now that symlink and hardlink races have been eliminated.

syscall register clearing, arm64

One of the ways attackers can influence potential speculative execution flaws in the kernel is to leak information into the kernel via “unused” register contents. Most syscalls take only a few arguments, so all the other calling-convention-defined registers can be cleared instead of just left with whatever contents they had in userspace. As it turns out, clearing registers is very fast. Similar to what was done on x86, Mark Rutland implemented a full register-clearing syscall wrapper on arm64.

Variable Length Array removals, part 3

As mentioned in part 1 and part 2, VLAs continue to be removed from the kernel. While CONFIG_THREAD_INFO_IN_TASK and CONFIG_VMAP_STACK cover most issues with stack exhaustion attacks, not all architectures have those features, so getting rid of VLAs makes sure we keep a few classes of flaws out of all kernel architectures and configurations. It’s been a long road, and it’s shaping up to be a 4-part saga with the remaining VLA removals landing in the next kernel. For v4.19, several folks continued to help grind away at the problem: Arnd Bergmann, Kyle Spiers, Laura Abbott, Martin Schwidefsky, Salvatore Mesoraca, and myself.

shift overflow helper
Jason Gunthorpe noticed that while the kernel recently gained add/sub/mul/div helpers to check for arithmetic overflow, we didn’t have anything for shift-left. He added check_shl_overflow() to round out the toolbox and Leon Romanovsky immediately put it to use to solve an overflow in RDMA.

Edit: I forgot to mention this next feature when I first posted:

trusted architecture-supported RNG initialization

The Random Number Generator in the kernel seeds its pools from many entropy sources, including any architecture-specific sources (e.g. x86’s RDRAND). Due to many people not wanting to trust the architecture-specific source due to the inability to audit its operation, entropy from those sources was not credited to RNG initialization, which wants to gather “enough” entropy before claiming to be initialized. However, because some systems don’t generate enough entropy at boot time, it was taking a while to gather enough system entropy (e.g. from interrupts) before the RNG became usable, which might block userspace from starting (e.g. systemd wants to get early entropy). To help these cases, Ted T’so introduced a toggle to trust the architecture-specific entropy completely (i.e. RNG is considered fully initialized as soon as it gets the architecture-specific entropy). To use this, the kernel can be built with CONFIG_RANDOM_TRUST_CPU=y (or booted with “random.trust_cpu=on“).

That’s it for now; thanks for reading. The merge window is open for v4.20! Wish us luck. :)

© 2018, Kees Cook. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.
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