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Xen says its security policies might be buggier than its software

Users didn't know if they were allowed to patch bug behind world cloud reboot

The Xen project has asked for help to ensure future bugs aren't as disruptive as the XSA-108 flaw that saw major cloud operators reboot an awful lot of servers.

XSA-108 emerged in late September and saw the likes of AWS, SoftLayer and Rackspace patch and reboot many 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 XSA-108 was so disruptive, the organisation has now shouted out to all and sundry with a “community consultation to improve and better define the project’s Security Vulnerability Response Process.”

At issue is that the organisation's current security policies were found to be ambiguous, meaning 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 whether the organisation's current process for vulnerability notification “prohibits deployment by a service provider of patched hosting software running customer VMs.”

Cleary it's not desirable for Xen users who know about bugs to be uncertain about whether they're allowed to fix them up, so the organisation 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 and making it easier to verify them;
  • 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 thoughts to help formulate and update our security policy to ensure it meets the needs of our entire community,” writes community manager Lars Kurth. If you'd like to heed his call, the consultation effort is happening in this thread. ®

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