Dear Qubes Community,

We have just published Qubes Security Bulletin (QSB) #34: GUI issue and Xen vulnerabilities (XSA-237 through XSA-244). The text of this QSB is reproduced below. This QSB and its accompanying signatures will always be available in the Qubes Security Pack (qubes-secpack).

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             ---===[ Qubes Security Bulletin #34 ]===---

                          October 12, 2017

   GUI issue and Xen vulnerabilities (XSA-237 through XSA-244)


One of our developers, Simon Gaiser (aka HW42), while working on
improving support for device isolation in Qubes 4.0, discovered a
potential security problem with the way Xen handles MSI-capable devices.
The Xen Security Team has classified this problem as XSA-237 [01], which
was published today.

At the same time, the Xen Security Team released several other Xen
Security Advisories (XSA-238 through XSA-244). The impact of these
advisories ranges from system crashes to potential privilege
escalations. However, the latter seem to be mostly theoretical. See our
commentary below for details.

Finally, Eric Larsson discovered a situation in which Qubes GUI
virtualization could allow a VM to produce a window that has no colored
borders (which are used in Qubes as front-line indicators of trust).
A VM cannot use this vulnerability to draw different borders in place of
the correct one, however. We discuss this issue extensively below.

Technical details

Xen issues

Xen Security Advisory 237 [01]:

| Multiple issues exist with the setup of PCI MSI interrupts:
| - unprivileged guests were permitted access to devices not owned by
|   them, in particular allowing them to disable MSI or MSI-X on any
|   device
| - HVM guests can trigger a codepath intended only for PV guests
| - some failure paths partially tear down previously configured
|   interrupts, leaving inconsistent state
| - with XSM enabled, caller and callee of a hook disagreed about the
|   data structure pointed to by a type-less argument
| A malicious or buggy guest may cause the hypervisor to crash, resulting
| in Denial of Service (DoS) affecting the entire host.  Privilege
| escalation and information leaks cannot be excluded.

Xen Security Advisory 238 [02]:

| DMOPs (which were a subgroup of HVMOPs in older releases) allow guests
| to control and drive other guests.  The I/O request server page mapping
| interface uses range sets to represent I/O resources the emulation of
| which is provided by a given I/O request server.  The internals of the
| range set implementation require that ranges have a starting value no
| lower than the ending one.  Checks for this fact were missing.
| Malicious or buggy stub domain kernels or tool stacks otherwise living
| outside of Domain0 can mount a denial of service attack which, if
| successful, can affect the whole system.
| Only domains controlling HVM guests can exploit this vulnerability.
| (This includes domains providing hardware emulation services to HVM
| guests.)

Xen Security Advisory 239 [03]:

| Intercepted I/O operations may deal with less than a full machine
| word's worth of data.  While read paths had been the subject of earlier
| XSAs (and hence have been fixed), at least one write path was found
| where the data stored into an internal structure could contain bits
| from an uninitialized hypervisor stack slot.  A subsequent emulated
| read would then be able to retrieve these bits.
| A malicious unprivileged x86 HVM guest may be able to obtain sensitive
| information from the host or other guests.

Xen Security Advisory 240 [04]:

| x86 PV guests are permitted to set up certain forms of what is often
| called "linear page tables", where pagetables contain references to
| other pagetables at the same level or higher.  Certain restrictions
| apply in order to fit into Xen's page type handling system.  An
| important restriction was missed, however: Stacking multiple layers
| of page tables of the same level on top of one another is not very
| useful, and the tearing down of such an arrangement involves
| recursion.  With sufficiently many layers such recursion will result
| in a stack overflow, commonly resulting in Xen to crash.
| A malicious or buggy PV guest may cause the hypervisor to crash,
| resulting in Denial of Service (DoS) affecting the entire host.
| Privilege escalation and information leaks cannot be excluded.

Xen Security Advisory 241 [05]:

| x86 PV guests effect TLB flushes by way of a hypercall.  Xen tries to
| reduce the number of TLB flushes by delaying them as much as possible.
| When the last type reference of a page is dropped, the need for a TLB
| flush (before the page is re-used) is recorded.  If a guest TLB flush
| request involves an Inter Processor Interrupt (IPI) to a CPU in which
| is the process of dropping the last type reference of some page, and
| if that IPI arrives at exactly the right instruction boundary, a stale
| time stamp may be recorded, possibly resulting in the later omission
| of the necessary TLB flush for that page.
| A malicious x86 PV guest may be able to access all of system memory,
| allowing for all of privilege escalation, host crashes, and
| information leaks.

Xen Security Advisory 242 [06]:

| The page type system of Xen requires cleanup when the last reference
| for a given page is being dropped.  In order to exclude simultaneous
| updates to a given page by multiple parties, pages which are updated
| are locked beforehand.  This locking includes temporarily increasing
| the type reference count by one.  When the page is later unlocked, the
| context precludes cleanup, so the reference that is then dropped must
| not be the last one.  This was not properly enforced.
| A malicious or buggy PV guest may cause a memory leak upon shutdown
| of the guest, ultimately perhaps resulting in Denial of Service (DoS)
| affecting the entire host.

Xen Security Advisory 243 [07]:

| The shadow pagetable code uses linear mappings to inspect and modify the
| shadow pagetables.  A linear mapping which points back to itself is known as
| self-linear.  For translated guests, the shadow linear mappings (being in a
| separate address space) are not intended to be self-linear.  For
| non-translated guests, the shadow linear mappings (being the same
| address space) are intended to be self-linear.
| When constructing a monitor pagetable for Xen to run on a vcpu with, the shadow
| linear slot is filled with a self-linear mapping, and for translated guests,
| shortly thereafter replaced with a non-self-linear mapping, when the guest's
| %cr3 is shadowed.
| However when writeable heuristics are used, the shadow mappings are used as
| part of shadowing %cr3, causing the heuristics to be applied to Xen's
| pagetables, not the guest shadow pagetables.
| While investigating, it was also identified that PV auto-translate mode was
| insecure.  This mode was removed in Xen 4.7 due to being unused, unmaintained
| and presumed broken.  We are not aware of any guest implementation of PV
| auto-translate mode.
| A malicious or buggy HVM guest may cause a hypervisor crash, resulting in a
| Denial of Service (DoS) affecting the entire host, or cause hypervisor memory
| corruption.  We cannot rule out a guest being able to escalate its privilege.

Xen Security Advisory 244 [08]:

| The x86-64 architecture allows interrupts to be run on distinct stacks.
| The choice of stack is encoded in a field of the corresponding
| interrupt descriptor in the Interrupt Descriptor Table (IDT).  That
| field selects an entry from the active Task State Segment (TSS).
| Since, on AMD hardware, Xen switches to an HVM guest's TSS before
| actually entering the guest, with the Global Interrupt Flag still set,
| the selectors in the IDT entry are switched when guest context is
| loaded/unloaded.
| When a new CPU is brought online, its IDT is copied from CPU0's IDT,
| including those selector fields.  If CPU0 happens at that moment to be
| in HVM context, wrong values for those IDT fields would be installed
| for the new CPU.  If the first guest vCPU to be run on that CPU
| belongs to a PV guest, it will then have the ability to escalate its
| privilege or crash the hypervisor.
| A malicious or buggy x86 PV guest could escalate its privileges or
| crash the hypervisor.
| Avoiding to online CPUs at runtime will avoid this vulnerability.

GUI daemon issue

Qubes OS's GUI virtualization enforces colored borders around all VM
windows. There are two types of windows. The first type are normal
windows (with borders, titlebars, etc.). In this case, we modify the
window manager to take care of coloring the borders. The second type are
borderless windows (with the override_redirect property set to True in
X11 terminology). Here, the window manager is not involved at all, and
our GUI daemon needs to draw a border itself. This is done by drawing a
2px border whenever window content is changed beneath that area. The bug
was that if the VM application had never sent any updates for (any part
of) the border area, the frame was never drawn. The relevant code is in
the gui-daemon component [09], specifically in gui-daemon/xside.c [10]:

    /* update given fragment of window image
     * can be requested by VM (MSG_SHMIMAGE) and Xserver (XExposeEvent)
     * parameters are not sanitized earlier - we must check it carefully
     * also do not let to cover forced colorful frame (for undecoraded windows)
    static void do_shm_update(Ghandles * g, struct windowdata *vm_window,
               int untrusted_x, int untrusted_y, int untrusted_w,
               int untrusted_h)

        /* ... */

        if (!vm_window->image && !(g->screen_window && g->screen_window->image))
        /* force frame to be visible: */
        /*   * left */
        delta = border_width - x;
        if (delta > 0) {
            w -= delta;
            x = border_width;
            do_border = 1;
        /*   * right */
        delta = x + w - (vm_window->width - border_width);
        if (delta > 0) {
            w -= delta;
            do_border = 1;
        /*   * top */
        delta = border_width - y;
        if (delta > 0) {
            h -= delta;
            y = border_width;
            do_border = 1;
        /*   * bottom */
        delta = y + h - (vm_window->height - border_width);
        if (delta > 0) {
            h -= delta;
            do_border = 1;

        /* ... */


The above code is responsible for deciding whether the colored border
needs to be updated. It is updated if both:
a) there is any window image (vm_window->image)
b) the updated area includes a border anywhere

If neither of these conditions is met, no border is drawn. Note that if
the VM tries to draw anything there (for example, a fake border in a
different color), whatever is drawn will be overridden with the correct
borders, which will stay there until the window is destroyed.

Eric Larsson discovered that this situation (not updating the border
area) is reachable -- and even happens with some real world applications
-- when the VM shows a splash screen with a custom shape. While custom
window shapes are not supported in Qubes OS, VMs do not know this. The
VM still thinks the custom-shaped window is there, so it does not send
updates of content outside of that custom shape.

We fixed the issue by forcing an update of the whole window before
making it visible:

    static void handle_map(Ghandles * g, struct windowdata *vm_window)

        /* ... */

        /* added code */
        if (vm_window->override_redirect) {
            /* force window update to draw colorful frame, even when VM have not
             * sent any content yet */
            do_shm_update(g, vm_window, 0, 0, vm_window->width, vm_window->height);

        (void) XMapWindow(g->display, vm_window->local_winid);

This needs some auxiliary changes in the do_shm_update function, to draw
the frame also in cases when there is no window content yet
(vm_window->image is NULL).

Commentary from the Qubes Security Team

For the most part, this batch of Xen Security Advisories affects Qubes
OS 3.2 only theoretically. In the case of Qubes OS 4.0, half of them do
not apply at all. We'll comment briefly on each one:

XSA-237 - The impact is believed to be denial of service only. In addition,
          we believe proper use of Interrupt Remapping should offer a generic
          solution to similar problems, to reduce them to denial of
          service at worst.

XSA-238 - The stated impact is denial of service only.

XSA-239 - The attacking domain has no control over what information
          is leaked.

XSA-240 - The practical impact is believed to be denial of service (and does not
          affect HVMs).

XSA-241 - The issue applies only to PV domains, so the attack vector
          is largely limited in Qubes OS 4.0, which uses HVM domains
          by default. In addition, the Xen Security Team considers this
          bug to be hard to exploit in practice (see advisory).

XSA-242 - The stated impact is denial of service only. In addition, the
          issue applies only to PV domains.

XSA-243 - The practical impact is believed to be denial of service. In addition,
          the vulnerable code (shadow page tables) is build-time disabled
          in Qubes OS 4.0.

XSA-244 - The vulnerable code path (runtime CPU hotplug) is not used
          in Qubes OS.

These results reassure us that switching to HVM domains in Qubes OS 4.0
was a good decision.

Compromise Recovery

Starting with Qubes 3.2, we offer Paranoid Backup Restore Mode, which
was designed specifically to aid in the recovery of a (potentially)
compromised Qubes OS system. Thus, if you believe your system might have
been compromised (perhaps because of the bugs discussed in this
bulletin), then you should read and follow the procedure described here:


The specific packages that resolve the problems discussed in this
bulletin are as follows:

  For Qubes 3.2:
  - Xen packages, version 4.6.6-32
  - qubes-gui-dom0, version 3.2.12

  For Qubes 4.0:
  - Xen packages, version 4.8.2-6
  - qubes-gui-dom0, version 4.0.5

The packages are to be installed in dom0 via the Qubes VM Manager or via
the qubes-dom0-update command as follows:

  For updates from the stable repository (not immediately available):
  $ sudo qubes-dom0-update

  For updates from the security-testing repository:
  $ sudo qubes-dom0-update --enablerepo=qubes-dom0-security-testing

A system restart will be required afterwards.

These packages will migrate from the security-testing repository to the
current (stable) repository over the next two weeks after being tested
by the community.

If you use Anti Evil Maid, you will need to reseal your secret
passphrase to new PCR values, as PCR18+19 will change due to the new
Xen binaries.


The GUI daemon issue was discovered by Eric Larsson.

The PCI MSI issues were discovered by Simon Gaiser (aka HW42).

For other issues, see the original Xen Security Advisories.



The Qubes Security Team