Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

11/30/2010
02:46 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

New Tool Patches Offline VMs

Nuwa, named after the Chinese goddess who patched a hole in the sky, aims to fix cloud computing security hole

Researchers with IBM and North Carolina State University have come up with a way to patch security holes in virtual machines (VMs) even when these systems are offline, closing a potential security hole.

Existing patch management systems work with systems that are online, not dormant and not VMs. To date, it has been difficult to bring VM images online to patch them, the researchers say, and they are vulnerable during that window when they first go online unpatched. So the researchers built a tool called Nuwa, named after the Chinese goddess who patched a hole in the sky, which converts patches into ones that can be applied to offline VMs.

"We've designed a way to patch these virtual machines while they are offline so that they are kept up to date in terms of security protection," says Dr. Peng Ning, professor of computer science at NC State and one of the lead researchers on the project. "Current patching systems are designed for computers that are online, and they don't work for dormant computers or virtual machines. The tool we developed automatically analyzes the 'script' that dictates how a security patch is installed, and then automatically rewrites the script to make it compatible with an offline system."

Nuwa is based on technology developed by IBM called Mirage that handles large numbers of offline VM images. The tool basically saves one version of a file used by multiple VMs rather than saving the same file over and over for each individual VM. That way, multiple VMs can be patched simultaneously via that one file that they use.

According to the research, Nuwa sped up patching by more than four times that of an online method, and two to four times as fast when used with IBM's Mirage.

The research team -- which included Ning, Wu Zhou, and Ruowen Wang, all of NC State; and Xiaolan Zhang, Glenn Ammons, and Vasanth Bala of the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center -- deployed two prototypes. The first is a Nuwa tool that supports Debian and RPM package managers, and the second is a Mirage-based Nuwa that supports the RPM package manager.

They ran Nuwa in a cloud RC2 environment, as well: "Nuwa's safety analysis and script rewriting techniques are effective -- 1) Nuwa is able to convert more than 99% of the patches to safe versions that can then be applied offline to VM images; 2) the combination of offline patching with additional optimization made possible through Mirage allows Nuwa to be an order of magnitude more efficient than online patching; and 3) Nuwa successfully patched 278 images in a real compute cloud," the researchers wrote in their paper, which they will present next month at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference in Austin, Texas.

Nuwa currently does not support offline patching of a "suspended" VM image (one that includes a "snapshot" of the memory state of the system plus its file system). "In our future research, we will investigate techniques to patch suspended VM images and how to perform offline patching on Windows platforms," the researchers wrote.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Attackers Leave Stolen Credentials Searchable on Google
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/21/2021
How to Better Secure Your Microsoft 365 Environment
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/25/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: I can't find the back door.
Current Issue
2020: The Year in Security
Download this Tech Digest for a look at the biggest security stories that - so far - have shaped a very strange and stressful year.
Flash Poll
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
COVID-19 has created a new IT paradigm in the enterprise -- and a new level of cybersecurity risk. This report offers a look at how enterprises are assessing and managing cyber-risk under the new normal.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-21272
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-25
ORAS is open source software which enables a way to push OCI Artifacts to OCI Conformant registries. ORAS is both a CLI for initial testing and a Go Module. In ORAS from version 0.4.0 and before version 0.9.0, there is a "zip-slip" vulnerability. The directory support feature allows the ...
CVE-2021-23901
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-25
An XML external entity (XXE) injection vulnerability was discovered in the Nutch DmozParser and is known to affect Nutch versions < 1.18. XML external entity injection (also known as XXE) is a web security vulnerability that allows an attacker to interfere with an application's processing of XML ...
CVE-2020-17532
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-25
When handler-router component is enabled in servicecomb-java-chassis, authenticated user may inject some data and cause arbitrary code execution. The problem happens in versions between 2.0.0 ~ 2.1.3 and fixed in Apache ServiceComb-Java-Chassis 2.1.5
CVE-2020-12512
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-22
Pepperl+Fuchs Comtrol IO-Link Master in Version 1.5.48 and below is prone to an authenticated reflected POST Cross-Site Scripting
CVE-2020-12513
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-22
Pepperl+Fuchs Comtrol IO-Link Master in Version 1.5.48 and below is prone to an authenticated blind OS Command Injection.