Some outright rants from a bunch of infosec practitioners.




Fuzzing VMDK files

As announced at last week’s #HITB2012AMS, I’ll describe the fuzzing steps which were performed during our initial research. The very first step was the definition of the interfaces we wanted to test. We decided to go with the plain text VMDK file, as this is the main virtual disk description file and in most deployment scenarios user controlled, and the data part of a special kind of VMDK files, the Host Sparse Extends.

The used fuzzing toolkit is dizzy which just got an update last week (which brings you guys closer to trunk state 😉 ).

The main VMDK file goes straight forward, fuzzing wise. Here is a short sample file:

# Disk DescriptorFile
# Extent description
RW 40960 VMFS "ts_2vmdk-flat.vmdk"
# The Disk Data Base
ddb.virtualHWVersion = "8"
ddb.longContentID = "c818e173248456a9f5d83051fffffffe"
ddb.uuid = "60 00 C2 94 23 7b c1 41-51 76 b2 79 23 b5 3c 93"
ddb.geometry.cylinders = "20"
ddb.geometry.heads = "64"
ddb.geometry.sectors = "32"
ddb.adapterType = "buslogic"


As one can easily see the file is plain text and is based upon a name=value syntax. So a fuzzing script for this file would look something link this:

name = "vmdkfile"
objects = [
    field("descr_comment", None, "# Disk DescriptorFile\n", none),

    field("version_str", None, "version=", none),
    field("version", None, "1", std),
    field("version_br", None, "\n", none),

    field("encoding_str", None, "encoding=", none),
    field("encoding", None, '"UTF-8"', std),
    field("encoding_br", None, "\n", none),
functions = []


The first field, descr_comment, and the second field, version_str,  are plain static, as defined by the last parameter, so they wont get mutated. The first actual fuzzed string is the version field, which got a default value of the string 1 and will be mutated with all strings in your fuzz library.

As the attentive reader might have noticed, this is just the first attempt, as there is one but special inconsistency in the example file above: The quoting. Some values are Quoted, some are not. A good fuzzing script would try to play with exactly this inconsistency. Is it possible to set version to a string? Could one set the encoding to an integer value?

The second file we tried to fuzz was the Host Sparse Extend, a data file which is not plain data as the Flat Extends, but got a binary file header. This header is parsed by the ESX host and, as included in the data file, might be user defined. The definition from VMware is the following:

typedef struct COWDisk_Header {
    uint32 magicNumber;
    uint32 version;
    uint32 flags;
    uint32 numSectors;
    uint32 grainSize;
    uint32 gdOffset;
    uint32 numGDEntries;
    uint32 freeSector;
    union {
        struct {
            uint32 cylinders;
            uint32 heads;
            uint32 sectors;
        } root;
        struct {
            char parentFileName[COWDISK_MAX_PARENT_FILELEN];
            uint32 parentGeneration;
        } child;
    } u;
    uint32 generation;
    char name[COWDISK_MAX_NAME_LEN];
    char description[COWDISK_MAX_DESC_LEN];
    uint32 savedGeneration;
    char reserved[8];
    uint32 uncleanShutdown;
    char padding[396];
} COWDisk_Header;


Interesting header fields are all C strings (think about NULL termination) and of course the gdOffset in combination with numSectors and grainSize, as manipulating this values could lead the ESX host to access data outside of the user deployed data file.

So far so good, after writing the fuzzing scripts one needs to create a lot of VMDK files. This was done using dizzy:

./ -o file -d /tmp/vmdkfuzzing.vmdk -w 0 vmdkfile.dizz


Last but not least we needed to automate the deployment of the generated VMDK files. This was done with a simple shell script on the ESX host, using vim-cmd, a command line tool to administrate virtual machines.

By now the main fuzzing is still running in our lab, so no big results on that front, yet. Feel free to use the provided fuzzing scripts in your own lab. Find the two fuzzing scripts here and here. We will share more results, when the fuzzing is finished.

Have a nice day and start fuzzing 😉

Daniel and Pascal

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Today was an interesting day, for a number of reasons. Amongst those it stuck out that we were approached by two very large environments (both > 50K employees) to provide security review/advise, as they want to “virtualize their DMZs, by means of VMware ESX”.
[yes, more correctly I could/should have written: “virtualize some of their DMZ segments”. but this essentially means: “mostly all of their DMZs” in 6-12 months. and “their DMZ backend systems together with some internal servers” in 12-24 months. and “all of this” in 24-36 months. so it’s the same discussion anyway, just on a shifted timescale ;-)]

Out of some whim, I’d like to give a spontaneous response here (to the underlying question, which is: “is it a good idea to do this?”).

At first, for those of you who are working as ISOs, a word of warning. Some of you, dear readers, might recall the slide of my Day-Con3 keynote titled “Don’t go into fights you can’t win”.
[I’m just informed that those slides are not yet online. they will be soon… in the interim, to get an idea: the keynote’s title was “Tools of the Trade for Modern (C)ISOs” and it had a section “Communication & Tools” in it, with that mentioned slide].
This is one of the fights you (as an ISO) can’t win. Business/IT infrastructure/whoever_brought_this_on_the_table will. Get over it. The only thing you can do is “limit your losses” (more on this in second, or in another post).
Before, you are certainly eager to know: “now, what’s your answer to the question [good idea or not]?”.

I’m tempted to give a simple one here: “it’s all about risk [=> so perform risk analysis]”. This is the one we like to give in most situations (e.g. at conferences) when people expect a simple answer to a complex problem ;-).
However it’s not that easy here. In our daily practice, when calculating risk, we usually work with three parameters (each on a 1 [“very low”] to 5 [“very high” scale), that are: likelihood of some event (threat) occurring, vulnerability (environment disposes of, with regard to that event) and impact (if threat “successfully” happens).
Let’s assume the threat is “Compromise of [ESX] host, from attacker on guest”.
Looking at “our scenario” – that is “a number of DMZ systems is virtualized by means of VMware ESX” – the latter one (impact) might be the easiest one: let’s put in a “5” here. Under the assumption that at least one of the DMZ systems can get compromised by a skilled+motivated attacker at some point of time (if you would not expect this yourselves, why have you placed those systems in a DMZ then? 😉 … under that assumption, one might put in a “2” for the probability/likelihood. Furthermore _we_ think that, in the light of stuff like this  and the horrible security history VMware has for mostly all of their main products, it is fair to go with a “3” for the vulnerability.
This, in turn, gives a “2 * 3 *5 = 30” for the risk associated with the threat “Compromise of [ESX] host, from attacker on guest” (for a virtualized DMZ scenario, that is running guests with a high exposure to attacks).

In practically all environments performing risk analysis similar to the one described above (in some other post we might sometimes explain our approach – used by many other risk assessment practitioners as well – in more detail), a risk score of “30” would require some “risk treatment” other than “risk retention” (see ISO 27005 9.3 for our understanding of this term).
Still following the risk treatment options outlined in ISO 27005, there are left:

a) risk avoidance (staying away from the risk-inducing action at all). Well, this is probably not what the above mentioned “project initiator” will like to hear 😉 … and, remember: this is a fight you can’t win.

b) risk transfer (hmm… handing your DMZ systems over to some 3rd party to run them virtualized might actually not really decrease the risk of the threat “Compromise of [ESX] host, from attacker on guest” 😉

c) risk reduction. But… so how? There’s not many options or additional/mitigating controls you can bring into this picture. The most important technical recommendation to be given here is the one of binding a dedicated NIC to every virtualized system (you already hear them yelling “why can’t we bring more than ~ 14 systems on a physical platform?”, don’t you? 😉 ). Some minor, additional advise will be provided in another post, as will some discussion on the management side/aspects of “DMZ virtualization”. (notice how we’re cleverly trapping you into coming back here? 😉
So, if you are sent back and asked to “provide some mitigating controls”… you simply can’t. there’s not much that can be done. You’re mostly thrown back to that well-known (but not widely accepted) “instrument of security governance”, that is: trust.

In the end of the day you have to trust VMware, or not.
We don’t. We – for us – do not think that VMware ESX is a platform suited for “high secure isolation” (at least not at the moment).
The jury is still out on that one… but presumably you all know the truth, at your very inner self 😉
For completeness’ sake, here’s the general advice we give when we only have 60 seconds to answer the question “What do you think about the security aspects of moving systems to VMware ESX”. It’s split into “MUST” or (“DO NOT”) parts and “SHOULD” parts. See RFC 2119 for more on their meaning. Here we go:

1.) Assuming that you have a data/system/network classification scheme with four levels (like “1 = public” to “4 = strictly confidential/high secure”) you SHOULD NOT virtualize “level 4”. And think twice before virtualizing SOX relevant systems 😉
2.) If you still do this (virtualizing 4s), you MUST NOT mix those with other levels on the same physical platform.
3.) If you mix the other levels, then you SHOULD only mix two levels next to each other (2 & 3 or 1 & 2).
4.) DMZ systems SHOULD NOT be virtualized (on VMware ESX as of the current security state).
5.) If you still do this (virtualizing DMZ systems), you MUST NOT mix those with Non-DMZ systems.

For those of you who have already violated advice no. 4 but – reading this – settle back mumbling “at least we’re following advice no. 5″… wait, my friends, the same people forcing you before will soon knock at your door … and tell you about all those “significant cost savings” again… and again…

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