Unpatched Virtual Machine Takeover Bug Affects Google Compute Engine

Google Compute Engine

An unpatched security vulnerability affecting Google’s Compute Engine platform could be abused by an attacker to take over virtual machines over the network.

“This is done by impersonating the metadata server from the targeted virtual machine’s point of view,” security researcher Imre Rad said in an analysis published Friday. “By mounting this exploit, the attacker can grant access to themselves over SSH (public key authentication) so then they can login as the root user.”

Google Compute Engine (GCE) is an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) component of Google Cloud Platform that enables users to create and launch virtual machines (VMs) on demand. GCE provides a method for storing and retrieving metadata in the form of the metadata server, which offers a central point to set metadata in the form of key-value pairs that’s then provided to virtual machines at runtime.

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According to the researcher, the issue is a consequence of weak pseudo-random numbers used by the ISC DHCP client, resulting in a scenario wherein an adversary crafts multiple DHCP packets using a set of precalculated transaction identifiers (aka XIDs) and floods the victim’s DHCP client, ultimately leading to the…

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