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Re: [Xense-devel] Xen memory management

> > but this doesn't really
> > leak any information since it still can't see the memory contents of
> other
> > domains.
> The sentence above seems optimistic. To determine how much a domain can
> leak through this shared table is an interesting problem.

Yep.  It doesn't leak any security-related information just by being there, 
but it could certainly be used as a signalling channel.

> a) How easily can a domain affect its own M2P mapping?
>    --> this gives a first estimate about how easily a  domain can modulate
> information onto the mapping,
>          which can be observed by other domains looking at this mapping

It's updated using a hypercall - the hypercall could of course be rate-limited 
but this might impact performance.  I'm not sure that doing this would affect 
performance much in most cases, but it'd have an impact on network IO.

> b) Can this global mapping be converted to a per-domain mapping so that a
> domain can only access its own M2P mappings?
>    (Is there any reason why one domain would need to see another domain's
> mapping?)

Full details in my other e-mail...  Essentially there's no benefit to being 
able to see another domains mappings, but maintaining a per-domain M2P would 
imply a substantial extra space usage.

Less-flexible memory allocation could be used to limit the necessary size of 
the M2P (i.e. allocate in larger chunks, instead of a per-page basis), I 
guess, but this would require changes to the IO model to work well (consider 
page flipping).

> Note: there are non-Xen specific implicit/covert/illegal channels based on
> shared HW/SW resources. While this is not a Xen-specific problem, Xen as
> an open-source VMM offers a great foundation for researchers to apply
> existing and cooperatively develop new covert channel analysis technology
> and tools. Finding covert channels is one thing, estimating their real
> channel bandwidth is as important.


> The question that might arise in the future is where to start restricting
> covert channels and how to balance the trade-off between security and
> performance/code intrusiveness of security configurations. To find a
> trade-off, we need bandwidth estimates for covert channels, which likely
> depend on the VMM configuration (noise on this covert channel can depend
> on how many VMs are running, what kind of resource control is applied,
> etc.).
> Are covert channel analysis tools available that apply to the C language
> and the programming environment of Xen?

I guess a straightforward way might just be to write code to exploit these 
covert channels?  It'd certainly be quite interesting and would give a 
concrete measure of bandwidth (nb. an analysis of covert channels and their 
bandwidth in one or more modern enterprise-class VMMs would make an 
interesting paper!)

There's probably a surprisingly large set of possible covert channels - 
particularly once you consider dom0.


> The Chinese Wall policy available in the Xen Access Control Module offers
> a first trade-off between security and utilization (risk mitigation): it
> supervises which VMs can run at the same time on the same system. In doing
> so, it controls the VMs among which the hardware resources and hypervisor
> resources are shared.
> > > Is it possible to read memory content of guest domain B (or domain 0)
> from
> > > guest domain A?
> >
> > No.  On x86 you can only read memory if you can map it with the
> pagetables
> > (i.e. no direct physical addressing).  You can therefore only read the
> memory
> > contents of another domain if you can create a pagetable mapping for
> that
> > domain.  Xen validates any updates to the pagetables to make sure that
> they
> > are safe, so a domain can't create arbitrary mappings to other domains -
> if
> > it tries to make an illegal mapping, Xen won't allow the pagetable
> updates.
> Thanks
> Reiner

Dave: Just a question. What use is a unicyle with no seat?  And no pedals!
Mark: To answer a question with a question: What use is a skateboard?
Dave: Skateboards have wheels.
Mark: My wheel has a wheel!

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