doc: more FAQ and README

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Stéphane Lesimple 1 year ago
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  1. 35
      FAQ.md
  2. 24
      README.md

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# Questions
- [What to expect from this tool?](#what-to-expect-from-this-tool)
- [Why was this script written in the first place?](#why-was-this-script-written-in-the-first-place)
- [Why are those vulnerabilities so different than regular CVEs?](#why-are-those-vulnerabilities-so-different-than-regular-cves)
- [What do "affected", "vulnerable" and "mitigated" mean exactly?](#what-do-affected-vulnerable-and-mitigated-mean-exactly)
@ -8,9 +9,20 @@
- [How does this script work?](#how-does-this-script-work)
- [Which BSD OSes are supported?](#which-bsd-oses-are-supported)
- [Why is my OS not supported?](#why-is-my-os-not-supported)
- [The tool says there is an updated microcode for my CPU, but I don't have it!](#the-tool-says-there-is-an-updated-microcode-for-my-cpu-but-i-dont-have-it)
- [The tool says that I need a more up-to-date microcode, but I have the more recent version!](#the-tool-says-that-i-need-a-more-up-to-date-microcode-but-i-have-the-more-recent-version)
# Answers
## What to expect from this tool?
This tool does its best to determine where your system stands on each of the collectively named [speculative execution](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speculative_execution) vulnerabilities that were made public since early 2018. It doesn't attempt to run any kind of exploit, and can't guarantee that your system is secure, but rather helps you verifying if your system is affected, and if it is, checks whether it has the known mitigations in place to avoid being vulnerable.
Some mitigations could also exist in your kernel that this script doesn't know (yet) how to detect, or it might falsely detect mitigations that in the end don't work as expected (for example, on backported or modified kernels).
Please also note that for Spectre vulnerabilities, all software can possibly be exploited, this tool only verifies that the kernel (which is the core of the system) you're using has the proper protections in place. Verifying all the other software is out of the scope of this tool. As a general measure, ensure you always have the most up to date stable versions of all the software you use, especially for those who are exposed to the world, such as network daemons and browsers.
This tool has been released in the hope that it'll be useful, but don't use it to jump to definitive conclusions about your security: hardware vulnerabilities are [complex beasts](#why-are-those-vulnerabilities-so-different-than-regular-cves), and collective understanding of each vulnerability is evolving with time.
## Why was this script written in the first place?
The first commit of this script is dated *2018-01-07*, only 4 days after the world first heard about the Meltdown and the Spectre attacks. With those attacks disclosure, a _whole new range of vulnerabilities_ that were previously thought to be mostly theoretical and only possible in very controlled environments (labs) - hence of little interest for most except researchers - suddenly became completely mainstream and apparently trivial to conduct on an immensely large number of systems.
@ -44,6 +56,8 @@ A more detailed video explanation is available here: https://youtu.be/2gB9U1EcCs
## What are the main design decisions regarding this script?
There are a few rules that govern how this tool is written.
1) It should be okay to run this script in a production environment. This implies, but is not limited to:
* 1a. Never modify the system it's running on, and if it needs to e.g. load a kernel module it requires, that wasn't loaded before it was launched, it'll take care to unload it on exit
@ -90,4 +104,23 @@ For the BSD range of operating systems, the script will work as long as the BSD
## Why is my OS not supported?
This script only supports Linux, and [some flavors of BSD](#which-bsd-oses-are-supported). Other OSes will most likely never be supported, due to [how this script works](#how-does-this-script-work). It would require implementing these OSes specific way of querying the CPU. It would also require to get documentation (if available) about how this OS mitigates each vulnerability, down to this OS kernel code, and if documentation is not available, reverse-engineer the difference between a known old version of a kernel, and a kernel that mitigates a new vulnerability.
This tool only supports Linux, and [some flavors of BSD](#which-bsd-oses-are-supported). Other OSes will most likely never be supported, due to [how this script works](#how-does-this-script-work). It would require implementing these OSes specific way of querying the CPU. It would also require to get documentation (if available) about how this OS mitigates each vulnerability, down to this OS kernel code, and if documentation is not available, reverse-engineer the difference between a known old version of a kernel, and a kernel that mitigates a new vulnerability.
## The tool says there is an updated microcode for my CPU, but I don't have it!
Even if your operating system is fully up to date, the tool might still tell you that there is a more recent microcode version for your CPU. Currently, it uses (and merges) information from two sources:
- The official [Intel microcode repository](https://github.com/intel/Intel-Linux-Processor-Microcode-Data-Files)
- The awesome platomav's [MCExtractor database](https://github.com/platomav/MCExtractor) for non-Intel CPUs
Generally, for Intel CPUs it means that Intel does have a more recent version for your CPU, and for other CPUs it means that a more recent version has already been seen in the wild. However, your OS vendor might have chosen not to ship this new version (yet), maybe because it's currently being tested, or for other reasons. This tool can't tell you when or if this will be the case. You should ask your vendor about it. Technically, you can still go and upgrade your microcode yourself, and use this tool to confirm whether you did it successfully. Updating the microcode for you is out of the scope of this tool, as this would violate [rule 1b](#what-are-the-main-design-decisions-regarding-this-script).
## The tool says that I need a more up-to-date microcode, but I have the more recent version!
This can happen for a few reasons:
- Your CPU is no longer supported by the vendor. In that case, new versions of the microcode will never be published, and vulnerabilities requiring microcode features will never be fixed. On most of these vulnerabilities, you'll have no way to mitigate the issue on a vulnerable system, appart from buying a more recent CPU. Sometimes, you might be able to mitigate the issue by disabling a CPU feature instead (often at the cost of speed). When this is the case, the script will list this as one of the possible mitigations for the vulnerability.
- The vulnerability is recent, and your CPU has not yet received a microcode update for the vendor. Often, these updates come in batches, and it can take several batches to cover all the supported CPUs.
In both cases, you can contact your vendor to know whether there'll be an update or not, and if yes, when. For Intel, at the time this FAQ entry was written, such guidance was [available here](https://software.intel.com/content/www/us/en/develop/topics/software-security-guidance/processors-affected-consolidated-product-cpu-model.html).

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Spectre & Meltdown Checker
==========================
A shell script to tell whether your system is vulnerable to the several "speculative execution" CVEs that were made public since 2018.
A shell script to assess your system's resilience against the several [speculative execution](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speculative_execution) CVEs that were published since early 2018.
CVE | Name | Aliases
------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | --------------------------------------------------- | ---------------------------------
@ -23,9 +23,9 @@ CVE
Supported operating systems:
- Linux (all versions, flavors and distros)
- BSD (namely FreeBSD, NetBSD, DragonFlyBSD. Others are [not supported](FAQ.md#which-bsd-oses-are-supported))
- FreeBSD, NetBSD, DragonFlyBSD and derivatives (others BSDs are [not supported](FAQ.md#which-bsd-oses-are-supported))
For Linux systems, the script will detect mitigations, including backported non-vanilla patches, regardless of the advertised kernel version number and the distribution (such as Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS, RHEL, Fedora, openSUSE, Arch, ...), it also works if you've compiled your own kernel. More information [here](FAQ.md#how-does-this-script-work).
For Linux systems, the tool will detect mitigations, including backported non-vanilla patches, regardless of the advertised kernel version number and the distribution (such as Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS, RHEL, Fedora, openSUSE, Arch, ...), it also works if you've compiled your own kernel. More information [here](FAQ.md#how-does-this-script-work).
Other operating systems such as MacOS, Windows, ESXi, etc. [will most likely never be supported](FAQ.md#why-is-my-os-not-supported).
@ -35,6 +35,11 @@ Supported architectures:
- `ARM` and `ARM64`
- other architectures will work, but mitigations (if they exist) might not always be detected
## Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the purpose of this tool? Why was it written? How can it be useful to me? How does it work? What can I expect from it?
All these questions (and more) have detailed answers in the [FAQ](FAQ.md), please have a look!
## Easy way to run the script
- Get the latest version of the script using `curl` *or* `wget`
@ -168,16 +173,3 @@ docker run --rm --privileged -v /boot:/boot:ro -v /dev/cpu:/dev/cpu:ro -v /lib/m
- Impact: Kernel
- Mitigation: microcode update + kernel update helping to protect various CPU internal buffers from unprivileged speculative access to data
- Performance impact of the mitigation: low
## Understanding what this script does and doesn't
This tool does its best to determine whether your system is affected (or has proper mitigations in place) by the collectively named "speculative execution" vulnerabilities. It doesn't attempt to run any kind of exploit, and can't guarantee that your system is secure, but rather helps you verifying whether your system has the known mitigations in place.
However, some mitigations could also exist in your kernel that this script doesn't know (yet) how to detect, or it might falsely detect mitigations that in the end don't work as expected (for example, on backported or modified kernels).
Your system exposure also depends on your CPU. As of now, AMD and ARM processors are marked as immune to some or all of these vulnerabilities (except some specific ARM models). All Intel processors manufactured since circa 1995 are thought to be vulnerable, except some specific/old models, such as some early Atoms. Whatever processor one uses, one might seek more information from the manufacturer of that processor and/or of the device in which it runs.
The nature of the discovered vulnerabilities being quite new, the landscape of vulnerable processors can be expected to change over time, which is why this script makes the assumption that all CPUs are vulnerable, except if the manufacturer explicitly stated otherwise in a verifiable public announcement.
Please also note that for Spectre vulnerabilities, all software can possibly be exploited, this tool only verifies that the kernel (which is the core of the system) you're using has the proper protections in place. Verifying all the other software is out of the scope of this tool. As a general measure, ensure you always have the most up to date stable versions of all the software you use, especially for those who are exposed to the world, such as network daemons and browsers.
This tool has been released in the hope that it'll be useful, but don't use it to jump to conclusions about your security.

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