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From: B 650 (dunc.on.usenetgooglemail.com)
Date: Tue Sep 09 2008 - 14:29:43 CDT
I think it's a bit of a leap to call this a DoS vulnerability.
While having to power cycle the remainder of the frame may be a pain,
the fact it isolates the fault to only power off the affected domain
suggests to me that it is working as designed (the relative virtue of
the design not up for debate). The power cycle of the remainder of
the frame can be done at your leisure. It is for this reason I would
not class this as a DoS attack, as the "attacker" could not affect the
availability of the other domains, only the admin could.
You don't state what privileges are required on the affected domain to
initiate the fault. If this is executable by unprivileged users, then
I would agree with you that this represents a DoS issue for *that
domain*. It sounds like the XSCF is monitoring the domain for certain
events, and mistaking legitimate operation for one of these events
which leads it to disable a component in the domain. While I haven't
worked with the M-class systems, I have some experience with the
F15K/E25K range, and it sounds like the XSCF is blacklisting some
component (likely a system board). Requiring a power cycle of the
whole frame to clear a fault with a single (or even multiple)
components is fairly poor, the most I would expect is to power cycle
the domain components.
I'm not surprised you didn't get any interest from Fujitsu/Sun
security people, for the reasons stated above. As for engineering, I
would expect they will only address the issue if they see a commercial
or reputational benefit in doing so (i.e. someone wants to spend a
*lot* of money on hardware to run OpenBSD, and this issue is a
> On Tue, Sep 9, 2008 at 7:58 AM, Theo de Raadt <deraadtcvs.openbsd.org> wrote:
>> Sun/Fujitsu M4000-M9000 machines are very expensive multicpu sparc64
>> architecture machines, scaling all the way up to 64 processors, 256
>> cores, and 512 threads. They use the Fujitsu SPARC64 VI (and more
>> recently VII) processors. The smallest models are large (6U 84kg),
>> and the larger models are fridge sized and cost more than a house.
>> These machines can be split into domains. These domains are like
>> virtual machines which can run their own OS, except that they are not
>> virtual. The chassis contains actual partitioning hardware which
>> routes the various cpus to only see specific hardware devices. The
>> physical segmentation of the hardware obviously must be completely
>> secure and reliable to meet Sun's promises of high availability.
>> Sun's system partitioning domains are supposed to be the best of the
>> isolation schemes in the market. But perhaps even they have problems.
>> During the porting of OpenBSD/sparc64 to this family of machines it
>> was discovered that the OS kernel can trigger a fault. This fault is
>> caught by the systems management controller (the XSCF, Fujitsu's
>> version of LOM/RSC console) which then powers the domain down, marks
>> the mainboard in the chassis as faulty, and refuses to allow domains
>> relying on that mainboard to be started.
>> To clarify, the OS kernel does not crash; no -- the domain powers
>> down. Normally one uses commands in the XSCF to power domains on and
>> off. Those commands refuse to power up that domain again saying it
>> has faulted.
>> To repair this problem one must phone a friendly Sun support team.
>> After providing them with the machine's serial number, Sun will
>> dispatch an engineer with a generated series of codes that are valid
>> for a 48-hour period. These codes are used to generate a
>> one-time-password which enables a login to the service console within
>> the XSCF. The engineer then uses the service console to clear the
>> fault on the mainboard. That command then requires a POWERCYCLE OF
>> THE ENTIRE CHASSIS. This means any other domains running on the same
>> hardware must be shutdown to clear the fault generated in another
>> Please note that we have not tried to power cycle the entire chassis
>> without clearing the fault using the Sun procedure. However, we do
>> not see a difference in availability between that and a powercycle
>> requested by the service console.
>> These machines are run in mission critical environments where the
>> concept of 'availability' blends with the concept of 'security'. The
>> main customer base for these machines is apparently banks and other
>> financial institutes. Machine prices start at $29,000, rocket to
>> $180,000 (8 cpu), and continue higher to "Sun won't tell you on the
>> web", so one could expect that the machine should probably not fail in
>> such a harsh way. We do not have any information about how or why
>> this problem happens, but feel compelled to speculate that there might
>> be further problems with domain seperation. Having to power down all
>> the other domains is already, effectively, a big problem in domain
>> The problem is triggered when OpenBSD/sparc64 spins up the additional
>> strands (threads) of each physical cpu in the domain. The OS
>> continues running for a few moments and then the fault occurs. Newer
>> versions of OpenBSD/sparc64 workaround this problem (diff linked
>> below) by not spinning up the additional strands on SPARC64 VI cpus.
>> But we don't really know why this workaround helps. Since we do not
>> have any tools to characterize the exact problem, the workaround might
>> be accidentally avoiding the fault, but some other action could still
>> cause it. The same problems do not occur on the other domain-capable
>> Sun machines that OpenBSD runs on, for instance, those using
>> UltraSPARC III IV, T1, or T2 processors.
>> With the workaround in effect, the result is that this machine running
>> OpenBSD is using half the available cpu, all to avoid a machine
>> problem that might be triggered by something else. We do not yet know
>> if the problem is due to a bug in the cpu, the chassis, or some other
>> firmware component that is involved in domain partitioning.
>> OpenBSD/sparc64 is probably doing something wrong -- but then the OS
>> should crash instead of the domain.
>> Whatever this hardware problem is, it could also be exercised in
>> Solaris by loading a kernel module which does whatever OpenBSD is
>> doing, and thus triggers a domain fault. If an attacker can gain root
>> on a Solaris domain and load such a kernel module, the owner would be
>> forced to eventually powerdown the entire machine and take all other
>> domains down as well (which are running mission critical services,
>> obviously). At http://www.sun.com/servers/white-papers/domains.html
>> Sun claims that their domain technology offers "Complete isolation
>> from software errors in other domains" and provide the benefit that
>> "Mission-critical applications are not impacted by applications
>> running within other domains". Maybe after this bug is fixed...
>> Sun & Fujitsu should fix at least two things:
>> - Greater recoverability. Don't require a powercycle of the
>> chassis for such a type of domain fault, so that a failure
>> of one domain does not kill the availability of other domains.
>> - Don't fault in the first place! Find out what OS action
>> is causing the fault, and make the firmware/hardware accept
>> and handle this condition without faulting the domain.
>> Sun (Australia) was alerted about this problem on July 24, 2008.
>> Various other channels into Sun and Fujitsu were tried as well, but
>> unfortunately noone in "security" seemed to understand that this issue
>> matters, and it seems the engineering people made no progress either.
>> We think the Sun engineers didn't even go through the effort to
>> install OpenBSD in order to reproduce the problem. Any Sun / Fujitsu
>> engineer who wants to solve this problem can either build their own
>> kernel with the above patch un-applied, or can contact
>> <dlgopenbsd.org>, <deraadtopenbsd.org> or <kettenisopenbsd.org>.