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Date: Tue, 16 May 2023 09:04:01 -0400
From: Marc Deslauriers <>
Subject: Re: Clarification on embargoed testing in a partner


On 2023-05-14 16:24, Solar Designer wrote:
> Hi Marc,
> Thank you for bringing this up.  I'll share my current thoughts below.
> I do not have a conclusion nor a decision yet, but I hope we'll arrive
> at one in further discussion.
> On Thu, May 11, 2023 at 07:36:44AM -0400, Marc Deslauriers wrote:
>> The Ubuntu security team shares and obtains information about embargoed
>> issues from the distros and linux-distros mailing lists.
>> One of our large cloud partners has asked the Ubuntu security team to do
>> automated testing of embargoed security updates on their public cloud
>> before the CRD. While technically we would not be directly sharing details
>> of embargoed issues with them as the tests will be run under accounts owned
>> by the Ubuntu security team, they will be run on their infrastructure. As
>> such, this may hinder our ability to conduct a comprehensive internal
>> investigation of any leak that may occur.
>> I'm not exactly sure how this scenario fits within the policy of these
>> lists, and would like to validate before we go ahead. ( Policy can be found
>> here: )
>> Would testing embargoed updates obtained from the distros and linux-distros
>> lists on an external cloud infrastructure violate the terms of those
>> mailing lists?
> I think this is a gray area.  The policy talks about not sharing beyond
> the need-to-know for getting the issue fixed for your distro's users.
> It also talks about not delivering or deploying.  However, usage of
> cloud resources under the distro's accounts is not exactly sharing, and
> testing in the target environment is relevant to getting the issue fixed
> for the distro's users.

Yes, this is the unclear area, and is the reason for me asking for 
clarification. Is using a public cloud under a private account considered 
sharing with the cloud provider?

While they claim they have mechanisms in place to prevent their employees from 
accessing private customer data, I am skeptical that a bad employee wouldn't be 
able to leak sensitive embargoed information, and I wouldn't be able to find 
out, or investigate thoroughly.

Ideally, I would like this clarified in policy once a decision has been made.

> Sure this adds risks.  However, realistically we probably already do
> have distros on the list that use a public cloud for some processing of
> embargoed information.  At least Amazon Linux probably uses AWS -
> probably dedicated instances with no other concurrent VMs on the same
> hardware, but still.  (I am just guessing here.  Maybe it's more
> separated from the public cloud.)
> Also, some use third-party e-mail servers, e.g. domains pointing to
> Gmail MX'es.  While mail relayed by (linux-)distros arrives encrypted
> (except for headers), I doubt all other e-mail communication within the
> distros' teams is - and if it is not, then they rely on a similar
> security and legal boundary already (the distro's accounts with a
> third-party provider).  If we don't consider sending e-mail through
> Google servers as sharing with Google, then I guess usage of Google's
> cloud is not sharing either.

The Ubuntu security team is still using a self-hosted email server for this 
exact reason. We were uncomfortable moving along with the rest of the company to 
a hosted email setup while handling embargoed information.

> Thus, it could be inconsistent to say that, no, Ubuntu cannot test in
> the cloud while some other distros might be exposing the information to
> similar cloud risks.  It would be wrong to penalize Ubuntu for asking.
> Another angle is: what's the motivation for testing in the cloud?
> I guess it's about compatibility with the cloud environment
> (hypervisor?), so it is perhaps most relevant to testing of updates to
> low-level components - especially the Linux kernel?  Well, we've granted
> an exception allowing public commits of Linux kernel security fixes.
> Can we at the same time reasonably object to testing of a distro's Linux
> kernel updates under a public cloud account (thus, with more limited
> exposure than the public commits have)?  Well, kind of yes since updates
> can be more revealing than the public fixes - updates typically do
> mention security relevance in change logs.  Also, this exception is made
> use of only for a subset of Linux kernel issues handled on
> linux-distros, not for all.
> That said, maybe exposure of testing in the public cloud can be reduced
> by only doing such testing for low-level packages, not for typical
> userland packages that are not expected to be affected by whether they
> run on Ubuntu's own servers and VMs vs. the cloud?

They were requesting we test the default package set that is shipped in cloud 
images, including userland packages that don't have anything specific to their 

> Yet another angle is where linux-distros itself is to be hosted.  So
> far, I insist on non-cloud hosting.  Arguably, allowing for processing
> of embargoed information in the cloud by the member distros is a reason
> for me to give in and accept a cloud hosting offer.  OTOH, a distro's
> usage of the cloud exposes somewhat different information to the risks
> than the list's hosting would.  Only issues being handled by that distro
> rather than all, sometimes only in processed form rather than original
> (e.g., binary update packages vs. list messages), with some delay rather
> than immediately, and no exposure of the list's long-term private key.
>> Would testing embargoed updates on an external cloud
>> infrastructure be contrary to the expectations of the vendors posting
>> embargoed issues to those lists?
> Not only "vendors" post embargoed issues to those lists.  I think we
> shouldn't violate any sender's reasonable expectations.  That said,
> vendor postings are an interesting subset.  Maybe other distro vendors
> can comment on this, please?  Marcus from SUSE has already commented
> (thanks!), but I think not yet on this specific aspect.
Yes, that's a bad choice of wording on my part. I did mean the expectations of 
anyone posting to the list.


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