Critical MDS affects almost all Intel CPUs

Published: May 15, 2019 4:53:04 PM / Last update: Jul 4, 2020 / by Alexandra Mitroshkina

Critical MDS affects almost all Intel CPUs
1. About the Zombieload/MDS Vulnerability
2. Patch Release Schedule

About the Zombieload/MDS Vulnerability

Vulnerabilities are becoming like celebrities, with freaky names and their own websites.

The latest ones to hit the scene are Zombieload, RIDL and Fallout, also known as Microarchitectural Data Sampling, (MDS for short), discovered by Intel and researched by academic departments at security-focused institutions around the world. These vulnerabilities are in the same vein as Spectre and Meltdown, being design flaws that reveal data. Zombieload is particularly worrying because it affects all Intel Core and Xeon CPUs manufactured since 2011.

There are four distinct vulnerability registrations combining to make a Zombieload exploit possible: CVE–2018–12126, CVE–2018–12127, CVE–2018–12130, and CVE–2019–11091. Look at the codes and you’ll see three were registered last year. The issue has been kept under wraps, a practice known as Coordinated Disclosure, to stop ‘bad actors’ exploiting vulnerabilities before the rest of us can defend against them. Microsoft, Amazon AWS and Google have all mitigated the problem in their data centers, being in the ‘inner circle’ of companies benefiting from advance notice of such problems. Anyone else has to wait for an update from their OS vendor.

KernelCare started testing live patches for MDS on Friday, May 17, and they are now rolled out for all main distributions, with others shortly to follow. For the latest news, follow us on @KernelCare.

Watch the video with the insights regarding MDS from Igor Seletskiy below, or scroll down for instructions on how to mitigate the MDS/Zombieload Vulnerability with no rebooting required.


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How to mitigate the MDS/Zombieload Vulnerability

If you are running on hardware:

To mitigate this vulnerability, you will need to take 3 steps that require no reboot if you follow the instructions below:

Step 1: Update Microcode without a reboot

Microcode is the code that runs inside the CPU itself and is handled by Intel. Microcode update is usually done on reboot: you get the new kernel, it will have new microcode and when the kernel boots it will install new microcode into CPU. You can update microcode without reboot using our instructions.

Step 2: Disable Hyperthreading without a reboot

If you don't disable the CPU simultaneous multithreading (SMT) - you will still have an issue that attacker can read the data of the same CPU. With KernelCare you can disable Hyperthreading without a reboot using our instructions.

Step 3: Apply KernelCare patches

Even if you have done steps 1 and 2, you must still update the Linux Kernel to ensure that the local user can not read the data you are running on the CPU. With KernelCare you can do that without rebooting. Sign up for the free 30-day trial.

If you are running on a Virtual Machine:

You only need to patch the Linux Kernel inside the VM. Make sure that your host node is updated as well which is typically done by your service provider.

If you are using your KernelCare - your patches will be delivered automatically by KernelCare and you don't need to do anything extra. If not - this is the right time to sign up for the free 30-day trial.

MDS/Zombieload Vulnerability Patch Release Schedule

Updated Monday, June 10

The KernelCare patch release schedule is shown below. Release schedules are subject to change. Check here regularly or get in touch with our helpdesk.

Released to production:

  • CentOS 6
  • CentOSPlus for CentOS 6
  • CloudLinux OS 6
  • Debian 8
  • Debian 9
  • Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr)
  • Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus)
  • Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver)
  • Oracle Enterprise Linux 6
  • Oracle Enterprise Linux 7
  • Oracle UEK 3
  • Oracle UEK 4
  • Oracle UEK 5
  • OpenVZ
  • Proxmox VE
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7
  • Amazon Linux 1
  • Amazon Linux 2

Patches from the production feed will be applied automatically.

Released to the test feed:

  • CentOS 7
  • CentOSPlus for CentOS 7
  • Cloud Linux 6 hybrid

To install patches from the test feed, run the command:

kcarectl --test --update

When production updates are available, KernelCare will use the regular feed automatically.

Due Week 24:

  • CentOS 7
  • CentOSPlus for CentOS 7
  • CloudLinux OS 7
  • Oracle Enterprise Linux 

Read more on how KernelCare address other critical vulnerabilities:

  1. Zombieload 2: KernelCare Team is on it!
  2. SWAPGS: KernelCare patches on the way
  3. SACK Panic & Slowness: KernelCare Live Patches Are Here
  4. RIDL – Another MDS Attack that Live Patching Would Have Saved You From
  5. Fallout – the MDS Side Channel Attack That Isn't Zombieload
  6. QEMU-KVM vhost/vhost_net Guest to Host Kernel Escape Vulnerability
  7. CVE–2018–1000199 patches
  8. Intel DDIO 'NetCat' Vulnerability

Topics: Articles, KernelCare Blog, Front Page

Alexandra Mitroshkina

Written by Alexandra Mitroshkina

Product Marketing Manager of KernelCare with 8 years experience in Advertising, Marketing and Project management for IT, mHealth and FinTech areas

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