QEMU is a generic and open source machine emulator and virtualizer and is incorporated in some Red Hat products as a foundation and hardware emulation layer for running virtual machines under the Xen and KVM hypervisors.
CVE-2015-3456 (aka VENOM) is a security flaw in the QEMU's Floppy Disk Controller (FDC) emulation. It can be exploited by a malicious guest user with access to the FDC I/O ports by issuing specially crafted FDC commands to the controller. It can result in guest controlled execution of arbitrary code in, and with privileges of, the corresponding QEMU process on the host. Worst case scenario this can be guest to host exit with the root privileges.
This issue affects all x86 and x86-64 based HVM Xen and QEMU/KVM guests, regardless of their machine type, because both PIIX and ICH9 based QEMU machine types create ISA bridge (ICH9 via LPC) and make FDC accessible to the guest. It is also exposed regardless of presence of any floppy related QEMU command line options so even guests without floppy disk explicitly enabled in the libvirt or Xen configuration files are affected.
We believe that code execution is possible but we have not yet seen any working reproducers that would allow this.
This flaw arises because of an unrestricted indexed write access to the fixed size FIFO memory buffer that FDC emulation layer uses to store commands and their parameters. The FIFO buffer is accessed with byte granularity (equivalent of FDC data I/O port write) and the current index is incremented afterwards. After each issued and processed command the FIFO index is reset to 0 so during normal processing the index cannot become out-of-bounds.
For certain commands (such as FD_CMD_READ_ID and FD_CMD_DRIVE_SPECIFICATION_COMMAND) though the index is either not reset for certain period of time (FD_CMD_READ_ID) or there are code paths that don't reset the index at all (FD_CMD_DRIVE_SPECIFICATION_COMMAND), in which case the subsequent FDC data port writes result in sequential FIFO buffer memory writes that can be out-of-bounds of the allocated memory. The attacker has full control over the values that are stored and also almost fully controls the length of the write. Depending on how the FIFO buffer is defined, he might also have a little control over the index as in the case of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 Xen QEMU package, where the index variable is stored after the memory designated for the FIFO buffer.
Depending on the location of the FIFO memory buffer, this can either result in stack or heap overflow. For all of the Red Hat Products using QEMU the FIFO memory buffer is allocated from the heap.
Red Hat has issued security advisories to fix this flaw and instructions for applying the fix are available on the knowledge-base.
The sVirt and seccomp functionalities used to restrict host's QEMU process privileges and resource access might mitigate the impact of successful exploitation of this issue. A possible policy-based workaround is to avoid granting untrusted users administrator privileges within guests.