Documentation / admin-guide / hw-vuln / tsx_async_abort.rst


Based on kernel version 5.9. Page generated on 2020-10-14 09:35 EST.

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.. SPDX-License-Identifier: GPL-2.0

TAA - TSX Asynchronous Abort
======================================

TAA is a hardware vulnerability that allows unprivileged speculative access to
data which is available in various CPU internal buffers by using asynchronous
aborts within an Intel TSX transactional region.

Affected processors
-------------------

This vulnerability only affects Intel processors that support Intel
Transactional Synchronization Extensions (TSX) when the TAA_NO bit (bit 8)
is 0 in the IA32_ARCH_CAPABILITIES MSR.  On processors where the MDS_NO bit
(bit 5) is 0 in the IA32_ARCH_CAPABILITIES MSR, the existing MDS mitigations
also mitigate against TAA.

Whether a processor is affected or not can be read out from the TAA
vulnerability file in sysfs. See :ref:`tsx_async_abort_sys_info`.

Related CVEs
------------

The following CVE entry is related to this TAA issue:

   ==============  =====  ===================================================
   CVE-2019-11135  TAA    TSX Asynchronous Abort (TAA) condition on some
                          microprocessors utilizing speculative execution may
                          allow an authenticated user to potentially enable
                          information disclosure via a side channel with
                          local access.
   ==============  =====  ===================================================

Problem
-------

When performing store, load or L1 refill operations, processors write
data into temporary microarchitectural structures (buffers). The data in
those buffers can be forwarded to load operations as an optimization.

Intel TSX is an extension to the x86 instruction set architecture that adds
hardware transactional memory support to improve performance of multi-threaded
software. TSX lets the processor expose and exploit concurrency hidden in an
application due to dynamically avoiding unnecessary synchronization.

TSX supports atomic memory transactions that are either committed (success) or
aborted. During an abort, operations that happened within the transactional region
are rolled back. An asynchronous abort takes place, among other options, when a
different thread accesses a cache line that is also used within the transactional
region when that access might lead to a data race.

Immediately after an uncompleted asynchronous abort, certain speculatively
executed loads may read data from those internal buffers and pass it to dependent
operations. This can be then used to infer the value via a cache side channel
attack.

Because the buffers are potentially shared between Hyper-Threads cross
Hyper-Thread attacks are possible.

The victim of a malicious actor does not need to make use of TSX. Only the
attacker needs to begin a TSX transaction and raise an asynchronous abort
which in turn potenitally leaks data stored in the buffers.

More detailed technical information is available in the TAA specific x86
architecture section: :ref:`Documentation/x86/tsx_async_abort.rst <tsx_async_abort>`.


Attack scenarios
----------------

Attacks against the TAA vulnerability can be implemented from unprivileged
applications running on hosts or guests.

As for MDS, the attacker has no control over the memory addresses that can
be leaked. Only the victim is responsible for bringing data to the CPU. As
a result, the malicious actor has to sample as much data as possible and
then postprocess it to try to infer any useful information from it.

A potential attacker only has read access to the data. Also, there is no direct
privilege escalation by using this technique.


.. _tsx_async_abort_sys_info:

TAA system information
-----------------------

The Linux kernel provides a sysfs interface to enumerate the current TAA status
of mitigated systems. The relevant sysfs file is:

/sys/devices/system/cpu/vulnerabilities/tsx_async_abort

The possible values in this file are:

.. list-table::

   * - 'Vulnerable'
     - The CPU is affected by this vulnerability and the microcode and kernel mitigation are not applied.
   * - 'Vulnerable: Clear CPU buffers attempted, no microcode'
     - The system tries to clear the buffers but the microcode might not support the operation.
   * - 'Mitigation: Clear CPU buffers'
     - The microcode has been updated to clear the buffers. TSX is still enabled.
   * - 'Mitigation: TSX disabled'
     - TSX is disabled.
   * - 'Not affected'
     - The CPU is not affected by this issue.

.. _ucode_needed:

Best effort mitigation mode
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

If the processor is vulnerable, but the availability of the microcode-based
mitigation mechanism is not advertised via CPUID the kernel selects a best
effort mitigation mode.  This mode invokes the mitigation instructions
without a guarantee that they clear the CPU buffers.

This is done to address virtualization scenarios where the host has the
microcode update applied, but the hypervisor is not yet updated to expose the
CPUID to the guest. If the host has updated microcode the protection takes
effect; otherwise a few CPU cycles are wasted pointlessly.

The state in the tsx_async_abort sysfs file reflects this situation
accordingly.


Mitigation mechanism
--------------------

The kernel detects the affected CPUs and the presence of the microcode which is
required. If a CPU is affected and the microcode is available, then the kernel
enables the mitigation by default.


The mitigation can be controlled at boot time via a kernel command line option.
See :ref:`taa_mitigation_control_command_line`.

Virtualization mitigation
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Affected systems where the host has TAA microcode and TAA is mitigated by
having disabled TSX previously, are not vulnerable regardless of the status
of the VMs.

In all other cases, if the host either does not have the TAA microcode or
the kernel is not mitigated, the system might be vulnerable.


.. _taa_mitigation_control_command_line:

Mitigation control on the kernel command line
---------------------------------------------

The kernel command line allows to control the TAA mitigations at boot time with
the option "tsx_async_abort=". The valid arguments for this option are:

  ============  =============================================================
  off		This option disables the TAA mitigation on affected platforms.
                If the system has TSX enabled (see next parameter) and the CPU
                is affected, the system is vulnerable.

  full	        TAA mitigation is enabled. If TSX is enabled, on an affected
                system it will clear CPU buffers on ring transitions. On
                systems which are MDS-affected and deploy MDS mitigation,
                TAA is also mitigated. Specifying this option on those
                systems will have no effect.

  full,nosmt    The same as tsx_async_abort=full, with SMT disabled on
                vulnerable CPUs that have TSX enabled. This is the complete
                mitigation. When TSX is disabled, SMT is not disabled because
                CPU is not vulnerable to cross-thread TAA attacks.
  ============  =============================================================

Not specifying this option is equivalent to "tsx_async_abort=full". For
processors that are affected by both TAA and MDS, specifying just
"tsx_async_abort=off" without an accompanying "mds=off" will have no
effect as the same mitigation is used for both vulnerabilities.

The kernel command line also allows to control the TSX feature using the
parameter "tsx=" on CPUs which support TSX control. MSR_IA32_TSX_CTRL is used
to control the TSX feature and the enumeration of the TSX feature bits (RTM
and HLE) in CPUID.

The valid options are:

  ============  =============================================================
  off		Disables TSX on the system.

                Note that this option takes effect only on newer CPUs which are
                not vulnerable to MDS, i.e., have MSR_IA32_ARCH_CAPABILITIES.MDS_NO=1
                and which get the new IA32_TSX_CTRL MSR through a microcode
                update. This new MSR allows for the reliable deactivation of
                the TSX functionality.

  on		Enables TSX.

                Although there are mitigations for all known security
                vulnerabilities, TSX has been known to be an accelerator for
                several previous speculation-related CVEs, and so there may be
                unknown security risks associated with leaving it enabled.

  auto		Disables TSX if X86_BUG_TAA is present, otherwise enables TSX
                on the system.
  ============  =============================================================

Not specifying this option is equivalent to "tsx=off".

The following combinations of the "tsx_async_abort" and "tsx" are possible. For
affected platforms tsx=auto is equivalent to tsx=off and the result will be:

  =========  ==========================   =========================================
  tsx=on     tsx_async_abort=full         The system will use VERW to clear CPU
                                          buffers. Cross-thread attacks are still
					  possible on SMT machines.
  tsx=on     tsx_async_abort=full,nosmt   As above, cross-thread attacks on SMT
                                          mitigated.
  tsx=on     tsx_async_abort=off          The system is vulnerable.
  tsx=off    tsx_async_abort=full         TSX might be disabled if microcode
                                          provides a TSX control MSR. If so,
					  system is not vulnerable.
  tsx=off    tsx_async_abort=full,nosmt   Ditto
  tsx=off    tsx_async_abort=off          ditto
  =========  ==========================   =========================================


For unaffected platforms "tsx=on" and "tsx_async_abort=full" does not clear CPU
buffers.  For platforms without TSX control (MSR_IA32_ARCH_CAPABILITIES.MDS_NO=0)
"tsx" command line argument has no effect.

For the affected platforms below table indicates the mitigation status for the
combinations of CPUID bit MD_CLEAR and IA32_ARCH_CAPABILITIES MSR bits MDS_NO
and TSX_CTRL_MSR.

  =======  =========  =============  ========================================
  MDS_NO   MD_CLEAR   TSX_CTRL_MSR   Status
  =======  =========  =============  ========================================
    0          0            0        Vulnerable (needs microcode)
    0          1            0        MDS and TAA mitigated via VERW
    1          1            0        MDS fixed, TAA vulnerable if TSX enabled
                                     because MD_CLEAR has no meaning and
                                     VERW is not guaranteed to clear buffers
    1          X            1        MDS fixed, TAA can be mitigated by
                                     VERW or TSX_CTRL_MSR
  =======  =========  =============  ========================================

Mitigation selection guide
--------------------------

1. Trusted userspace and guests
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

If all user space applications are from a trusted source and do not execute
untrusted code which is supplied externally, then the mitigation can be
disabled. The same applies to virtualized environments with trusted guests.


2. Untrusted userspace and guests
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

If there are untrusted applications or guests on the system, enabling TSX
might allow a malicious actor to leak data from the host or from other
processes running on the same physical core.

If the microcode is available and the TSX is disabled on the host, attacks
are prevented in a virtualized environment as well, even if the VMs do not
explicitly enable the mitigation.


.. _taa_default_mitigations:

Default mitigations
-------------------

The kernel's default action for vulnerable processors is:

  - Deploy TSX disable mitigation (tsx_async_abort=full tsx=off).