VMSA-2018-0002 Meltdown and Specter

VMware Security Advisory VMSA-2018-0002 – Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities

Google Project Zero released yesterday information about two vulnerabilities with impact to major processors vendors: Meltdown (CVE-2017-5754 – rogue data cache load) and Spectre (CVE-2017-5753 – bounds check bypass & CVE-2017-5715 – branch target injection). Among other organizations, VMware released a security advisory: VMSA-2018-0002 – VMware ESXi, Workstation and Fusion updates address side-channel analysis due to speculative execution.

How to patch your vCenter / ESXi infrastructure against speculative execution vulnerabilities (Meltdown and Spectre). Products, versions, patches, order of upgrade, dependencies, warnings. VMware Patches for Spectre

Meltdown and Spectre Overview

Meltdown breaks the isolation between user applications and the operating system, and allows an application to access all system memory (this includes kernel allocated memory). Meltdown affects a range of  Intel processors.

Spectre breaks the memory isolation between different applications, and allows an application to force another application to access arbitrary portions of its memory. Spectre affects a wide range of processors: Intel, AMD, and ARM.

“Both of these vulnerabilities are hardware level vulnerabilities that exist because of a flaw in CPU architecture. They are very serious vulnerabilities because they are operating system and software independent. The long term fix for both of these issues will require that CPU makers change the way their chips work, which means redesigning and releasing new chips.” – Defiant

You can find more information on both vulnerabilities on spectreattack.com. For comprehensive technical details, you can refer to these academic papers: Meltdown and Spectre.

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VMware Security Advisory

VMware Security Advisory VMSA-2017-0021

VMware has released a new security advisory: “VMSA-2017-0021 – VMware ESXi, vCenter Server Appliance, Workstation and Fusion updates address multiple security vulnerabilities”.

Among affected products, we find vCenter Server Appliance 6.5, ESXi (5.5, 6.0, and 6.5), Workstation 12.x, and Fusion 8.x.

VMSA-2017-0021 – ESXi, Workstation, and Fusion stack overflow via authenticated VNC session

CVE-2017-4941 – VMware ESXi, Workstation, and Fusion contain a vulnerability that could allow an authenticated VNC session to cause a stack overflow via a specific set of VNC packets. A successful exploitation will result in remote code execution in a virtual machine via the authenticated VNC session. As prerequisites for a successful exploit, VNC must be manually enabled in a virtual machine’s .vmx configuration file and ESXi must be configured to allow VNC traffic through the firewall.

Affected products and versions:

  • ESXi 5.5 and 6.0 (install patches ESXi550-201709101-SG or ESXi600-201711101-SG)
  • Workstation 12.x (upgrade to version 12.5.8)
  • Fusion 8.x (upgrade to version 8.5.9)

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How to Update ESXi 6.5 with Command Line

In a previous post I wrote about how to easily update ESXi 6.5 using Update Manager. This time I will show another method of updating ESXi, more specific I will update ESXi 6.5 with the command line tool (esxcli). This method works either the ESXi server is standalone or added to a vCenter Server (I will use no component of vCenter Server).

When is this method better than using the Update Manager? The simplest use case is when you have no vCenter Server (because Update Manager is a component of vCenter Server). In other cases, you may be more familiar running scripts than clicking into a user interface 🙂

As a prerequisite, I placed the ESXi server in maintenance mode. Let’s start!

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How to Update ESXi 6.5 with Update Manager

In this article I will demonstrate how to easily update ESXi 6.5 using Update Manager.

In this demonstration I will use vCenter Update Manager, so I must have the proper vCenter version already installed. As a rule of thumb, you always need to update vCenter Server before ESXi (vSphere). Update process for VMware solutions can be tricky, so for specific order update for VMware products I suggest you to check KB2147289.

Note: If you look for VCSA update instructions, check this article: How to Update vCenter Server Appliance to 6.5 Update 1b.

Check vCenter and ESXi versions

I will connect to my vCenter Server using vSphere Web Client and I will check the vCenter version. As you can see below, I am running vCenter version 6.5.0, build 6816762, which is the latest version at the moment I am writing this article.

Update ESXi - Check vCenter Version

Next, I will check ESXi version. I navigate in the left panel to the ESXi server I plan to update (esx1.lab.local). In the right panel, I can see the installed product: VMware ESXi 6.5.0 build 5310536.

Update ESXi - Check ESXi Version

I will use now my.vmware.com site.to find the latest version for ESXi 6.5. As you can see below, latest build is 6765664. Take note of the Bulletin Number, we will use it later: ESXi650-201710401-BG.

Update ESXi - MyVMware

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How to Install VMware vSphere 6.5

In this article I will show you how to install VMware vSphere 6.5.

To start, you need an installation kit of vSphere 6.5. For this article, I will use the vSphere version I downloaded from my VMUG Advantage account (VMware-VMvisor-Installer-201704001-5310538.x86_64.iso).

You need to boot from the image you downloaded. This operation highly depends on the medium and the maker of the system where you are going to install vSphere, so I will not go into specifics. For example, I will install vSphere into a virtual machine (a configuration unsupported by VMware, but often seen in home labs), so I will just mount the iso file into the cd drive and power on the VM.

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