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The No Good, Terrible Processor Flaw and SQL Server Deployments – Nearly Everything You Need To Know

By: on January 4, 2018 in Linux, Security, SQL Server, Windows Server

UPDATED JANUARY 18

If you haven’t been paying attention, a serious security flaw in nearly every processor made in the last ten years was discovered. Initially it was thought to be just Intel, but it appears it’s everyone. Official responses:

  • AMD (downplaying the issue)
  • ARM (great response)
  • Intel (oy)

There are two bugs which are known as Meltdown and Spectre. The Register has a great summarized writeup here – no need for me to regurgitate. This is a hardware issue – nothing short of new chips will eradicate it. That said, pretty much everyone who has written an OS, hypervisor, or software has (or will have) patches to hopefully eliminate this flaw. This blog post covers physical, virtualized, and cloud-based deployments of Windows, Linux, and SQL Server.

The fact every vendor is dealing with this swiftly is a good thing. The problem? Performance will most likely be impacted. No one knows the extent, especially with SQL Server workloads. You’re going to have to test and reset any expectations/performance SLAs. You’ll need new baselines and benchmarks. There is some irony here that it seems virtualized workloads will most likely take the biggest hit versus ones on physical deployments. Time will tell – no one knows yet.

What do you need to do? Don’t dawdle or bury your head in the sand thinking you don’t need to do anything and you are safe. If you have deployed anything in the past 10 – 15 years, it probably needs to be patched. Period. PATCH ALL THE THINGS! However, keep in mind that besides this massive scope, there’s pretty much a guarantee – even on Linux – you will have downtime associated with patching.

Below is a summarized list of the biggest players for SQL Server-related deployments covering physical, virtualized, and cloud. Finding all these links took some time, so I figured I should put them all in one convenient place for everyone. Each vendor and product has its own guidance and response, and there may be updates to what I’ve posted but this should get you started. What I did not list is all the hardware vendors. Check with Dell, HP, Hitachi, etc. to see if there are firmware/BIOS/UEFI updates as well.

If you want help with new baselines and benchmarks, or just assistance in sorting this out and coming up with a plan, contact us. If you are on an older, unsupported version of one of the things below that will not be patched, you should strongly consider accelerating your upgrade/migration plans. This is also something we can help with.

AWS

If you’re running workloads using Amazon Web Services, their response can be found here. It appears that their stuff has been patched, but if you’re running IaaS VMs with EC2, you’re going to have to patch your OSes and software in them.

Azure

Microsoft’s response for Azure customers can be found here. They also did a KB article (4073235) which can be found here. Like AWS, they’ve patched the underlying stuff. If you are running IaaS VMs, you’ll need to make sure they are patched properly unless you have automatic patching and running WIndows Server (see below).

GCP

If you’re using the Google Cloud for your workloads, their response is here. As with AWS and Azure, they took care of the base, but you’re responsible for your IaaS VMs/workloads.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux

Red Hat’s response can be found here which talks more about the impact and the performance. To understand the patching side of things, refer to this. SQL Server is supported on 7.3 or later, and those builds have patches available (although I didn’t see 7.4 listed as of the writing of this post, just 7.3). CentOS had its patches released on January 5th.

SQL Server

Microsoft did a great KB (4073225) article summarizing your options which you can read here. Microsoft is patching SQL Server 2008 and later, but reality is because SQL Server 2005 can technically run on Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2, it would be affected but it’s out of support. I don’t see Microsoft doing anything for it. This would be a good time to consider when you are planning to upgrade or migrate. As of January 18th, patches are available for 2008, 2008 R2, 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2017.

Microsoft lists five scenarios in the KB. Please read them carefully and make the right choice(s), but the absolute wrong choice is to patch nothing.

SLES

If you’re using SLES for your SQL Server deployment, their information can be found here and here (KB). It appears they’ve patched 11 SP3-LTSS through 12 SP3. Although not officially supported for SQL Server, the OpenSUSE info can be found here.

Ubuntu

Here is Ubuntu’s high level response. Here is the link to where to get the patches. 16.04 is covered, which is important for SQL Server.

VMware

VMware posted a security announcement with regards to this issue as well as a blog post. So if you’re using ESXi as your hypervisor, you need to read it. As of the writing of this blog post, it looks like they patched ESXi 5.5, 6.0, and 6.5. It does not look like they are patching anything older than 5.5. There are two vulnerability alerts: VMSA-2018-002.1 and VMSA-2018-0004.2. VMware patched CVE-2017-5715 and CVE-2017-5753. VMware is not affected by CVE-2017-5754, so no patch exists for that.

If you are not on ESXi 5.5 or later, I strongly encourage you to upgrade as soon as possible, and you want that anyway since 6.0 is the first version of ESXi to support vMotion of clustered configurations of SQL Server.

Windows Server

Similar to SQL Server, Microsoft wrote a KB article (4072698) for this issue that can be found here. As of the writing of this blog post, Microsoft has released patches for Windows Server 2008 R2, 2012 R2, 2016, and RS3 (AKA 1709). Hopefully 2008 and 2012 will get patches soon (still the case as of 1/18). If you have automatic updating enabled, the fixes should be picked up by Windows Update. If not, apply them manually. If you’re still running Windows Server 2003/R2 or earlier, I don’t see Microsoft going back and patching. You’re on your own there. The mitigation would be to upgrade ASAP to something that is patched. If you’re running 2008 or 2012 and MS does not release a patch, I strongly urge you to consider upgrading/migrating your deployments to something that is patched.

More information about the January 3rd patch can be found in KB 4072699. Note that due to some anti-virus vendors, unless the registry is changed, you may not automatically see the patch.

XEN

If you’re using XEN as your hypervisor, they did a writeup as well. Things don’t look as rosy right there for now because they don’t seem to have patches for everything yet as of the time I’m writing this blog post. I’m sure that will change.

Other Stuff

Apple – If you’re running High Sierra, Sierra, or El Capitan, it looks like Apple took care of this back in December of 2017. See this for more infomation.

Browsers

  • Chrome – It looks like Google is going to release a patch for Chrome later in January. See this link for more information.
  • Firefox – Version 57 or later has the proper fixes. See this blog for more information, so patch away!
  • Edge and Internet Explorer – Microsoft has a blog post here. It looks like the January security update (KB4056890) takes care of that. So if you’re using either of these browsers, please update your OSes as soon as possible.

Hardware Vendors

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but will hopefully help some of you. A full list of vendors can be found here.

  • Cisco (thanks to the commenter below)
  • Dell Dell’s list of servers and storage is here. Here is a link for Dell’s Data Security product.
  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise HPE is continually updating this post with the various servers and such they sell with compliance and patch links.

2 Responses

  1. hot2use says:

    Nice to know, thanks. Cisco was missing from your list (UCS) so I’ll leave the link which explains how Cisco is currently in the process of evaluating their products : https://tools.cisco.com/security/center/content/CiscoSecurityAdvisory/cisco-sa-20180104-cpusidechannel

    • Allan Hirt says:

      The above isn’t meant to be exhaustive – I just focused on the MS/platform (i.e. VMware) side of the house. If I listed every potential hardware vendor it would be a long list! Thanks for the info.

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