The x86-64 architecture allows interrupts to be run on distinct stacks.
The choice of stack is encoded in a field of the corresponding
interrupt descriptor in the Interrupt Descriptor Table (IDT). That
field selects an entry from the active Task State Segment (TSS).
Since, on AMD hardware, Xen switches to an HVM guest's TSS before
actually entering the guest, with the Global Interrupt Flag still set,
the selectors in the IDT entry are switched when guest context is
When a new CPU is brought online, its IDT is copied from CPU0's IDT,
including those selector fields. If CPU0 happens at that moment to be
in HVM context, wrong values for those IDT fields would be installed
for the new CPU. If the first guest vCPU to be run on that CPU
belongs to a PV guest, it will then have the ability to escalate its
privilege or crash the hypervisor.
A malicious or buggy x86 PV guest could escalate its privileges or
crash the hypervisor.
All Xen versions from at least 3.2 onwards are vulnerable. Earlier
versions have not been checked.
Only PV guests can exploit the vulnerability. HVM guests cannot
exploit the vulnerability, but their presence is necessary for the
exposure of the vulnerability to PV guests.
Only x86 systems using SVM (AMD virtualisation extensions) rather than
VMX (Intel virtualisation extensions) are vulnerable. Therefore AMD
x86 hardware is vulnerable; Intel hardware is not vulnerable.
ARM systems are not vulnerable.
Avoiding to online CPUs at runtime will avoid this vulnerability.
Running only HVM or only PV guests on any individual host will also
avoid this vulnerability.
Created xen tracking bugs for this issue:
Affects: fedora-all [bug 1501391]
Name: the Xen project
Upstream: Andrew Cooper (Citrix)