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The Xen project asks for help to ensure better security in its software

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October 23, 2014

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We just learned that the Xen project has asked for help from the open source and Linux community to ensure better security in its software and to make certain that future bugs aren't as disruptive as the XSA-108 security hole that saw major cloud operators reboot an awful lot of servers.

The XSA-108 security flaw emerged in late September and saw the likes of AWS, SoftLayer and Rackspace patch and reboot thousands of servers.

Such reboots are just the kind of thing that cloud providers just aren't supposed to do, hence Xen's admission that “During the embargo period of XSA-108, the Xen Project Security Team was faced with some difficult questions of policy interpretation, as well as practical issues related to pre-disclosure list membership applications.”

Presumably because the XSA-108 bug was so disruptive, the organization now is asking the community's consultation to improve and better define the project’s security vulnerability response process.

At issue is the organisation's current security policies that were found to be ambiguous, meaning that some project members thought it was okay to spread news of XSA-108 while others felt it best to keep the news under wraps.

As this summary of the response to XSA-108 explains-- “It is still ambiguous whether predisclosure list members may share fixes and other information with other predisclosure list members.”

It's also not clear at this time whether the organization's current process for security vulnerability notification “prohibits deployment by a service provider of patched hosting software running customer VMs.”

Clearly, it's not desirable for Xen users who know about security bugs to be uncertain about whether they're allowed to fix them up, so the Xen organization wants to clear that up along with the following issues:

  • Service announcements to non-list-member users during an embargo period
  • Clarifying criteria related to pre-disclosure list membership
  • Processing applications of pre-disclosure list membership during an embargo period
  • “If you use Xen Project Software in any way, we encourage you to voice your concerns to help formulate and update our security policy to ensure that it fully meets the needs of our entire community,” writes project manager Lars Kurth.

    Source: The Xen Project.

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