Bigger than Heartbleed - 'Venom' Threatens Datacenters

A security research firm is warning that a new bug could allow a hacker to take over vast portions of a datacenter, from within. The zero-day vulnerability lies in a legacy common component in widely used virtualization software, allowing a hacker to infiltrate potentially every machine across a datacenter's network.

Most datacenters nowadays condense customers, including major technology companies and smaller firms, into virtualized machines, or multiple operating systems on one single server. Those virtualized systems are designed to share resources but remain as separate entities in the host hypervisor, which powers the virtual machines. 
 
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The cause is a widely ignored, legacy virtual floppy disk controller that, if sent specially crafted code, can crash the entire hypervisor. That can allow a hacker to break out of their own virtual machine to access other machines, including those owned by other people or companies.
    
The bug, found in open-source computer emulator QEMU, dates back to 2004. Many modern virtualization platforms, including Xen, KVM, and Oracle's VirtualBox, include the buggy code.
VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Bochs hypervisors are not affected.

The flaw may be one of the biggest vulnerabilities found this year. It comes just over a year after the notorious Heartbleed bug, which allowed malicious actors to grab data from the memory of servers running affected versions of the open-source OpenSSL encryption software.
"Heartbleed lets an adversary look through the window of a house and gather information based on what they see," said Geffner, using an analogy. "Venom allows a person to break in to a house, but also every other house in the neighborhood as well."
Geffner said that the company worked with software makers to help patch the bug. As many companies offer their own hardware and software, patches can be applied to thousands of affected customers without any downtime.

To take advantage of the flaw, a hacker would have to gain access to a virtual machine with high or "root" privileges of the system. Geffner warned that it would take little effort to rent a virtual machine from a cloud computing service to exploit the hypervisor from there.

Dan Kaminsky, a veteran security expert and researcher, said in an email that the bug went unnoticed for more than a decade because almost nobody looked at the legacy disk drive system, which happens to be in almost every virtualization software.

ZD Net:  

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