Xen has created a new library, Libbdvmi, the Bitdefender VM introspection library, an x86-centric library, supported by Xen 4.6.
In our quest for zero-footprint guest introspection using Xen, we needed to be able to decide whether changes to the guest OS are benign or malicious, and, once decided, to control whether they are allowed to happen, or rejected. To that end, we needed a way to be notified of interesting Xen guest events, with a very low overhead, that we could use in dom0 (or a similarly privileged dedicated domain), and that would connect our introspection logic component to the guest. We’re very happy to announce that the library we’ve created to help us perform virtual machine introspection, libbdvmi, is now on GitHub, under the LGPLv3 license, here. The library is x86-specific, and while there’s some #ifdeferry suggesting that the earliest supported version is Xen 4.3, only Xen 4.6 will work out-of-the-box with it. It has been written from scratch, using libxenctrl and libxenstore directly. Libbdvmi aims to provide a very efficient way of working with Xen to access guest information in an OS-agnostic manner:
* it only connects an introspection logic component to the guest, leaving on-the-fly OS detection and decision-making to it;
* provides a xenstore-based way to know when a guest has been started or stopped;
* has as few external library dependencies as possible – to that end, where LibVMI has used Glib for caching, we’ve only used STL containers, and the only other dependencies are libxenctrl and libxenstore;
* allows mapping guest pages from userspace, with the caveat that this implies mapping a single page for writing, where LibVMI’s buffer-based writes would possibly touch several non-contiguous pages;
* it works as fast as possible – we get a lot of events, so any unnecessary userspace / hypervisor context switches may incur unacceptable penalties (this is why one of our first patches had vm_events carry interesting register values instead of querying the quest from userspace after receiving the event);
* last but not least, since the Xen vm_event code has been in quite a bit of flux, being able to immediately modify the library code to suit a new need, or to update the code for a new Xen version, has been a bonus to the project’s development pace.
Last week, Paolo Bonzini of Red Hat announced qboot, a new x86 firmware option for QEMU. qboot is a minimal x86 firmware that runs on QEMU and, together with a slimmed-down QEMU configuration, boots a virtual machine in 40 milliseconds on an Ivy Bridge Core i7 processor. The code is 8KB in size.