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Date: Thu, 27 Jun 2019 09:57:38 -0700
From: Anthony Liguori <>
Subject: Re: linux-distros membership application - Microsoft

On Thu, Jun 27, 2019 at 7:05 AM Solar Designer <> wrote:
> Hi Sasha,
> Thank you for posting this application.
> Are you also on security@...?  If so, then on one hand also being on
> linux-distros would probably be of less use to you since I suspect most
> of the issues relevant to Microsoft are in the Linux kernel, but on the
> other hand you could serve as a liaison to that group.
> On Wed, Jun 26, 2019 at 10:13:58AM -0400, Sasha Levin wrote:
> > >1. Be an actively maintained Unix-like operating system distro with
> > >substantial use of Open Source components
> >
> > Microsoft provides several distro-like builds which are not derivative
> > of an existing distribution that are based on open source components:
> >
> > - Azure Sphere
> >   ( This
> >   Linux-based IoT device provides, among various things, security
> >   updates to deployed IoT devices. As the project is about to step out
> >   of public preview into the GA stage, we expect millions of these
> >   devices to be publicly used.
> This does sound like it includes a Linux distro, but obviously there's
> no security track record for it yet, so it's hard to estimate relevance
> of information you'd obtain via linux-distros to that product.
> > - Windows Subsystem for Linux v2
> >   (
> >   A Linux based distro that runs as a virtual machine on top of Windows
> >   hosts. WSL2 is currently available for public preview and scheduled
> >   for GA early 2020.
> You call this "a Linux based distro", but that's not clear to me from
> the web page you reference, which talks about managing (third-party?)
> distros in the WSL2 subsystem.  Can you clarify this, please?
> > - Products such as Azure HDInsight
> >   ( and the Azure
> >   Kubernetes Service
> >   (
> >   provide public access to a Linux based distribution.
> These look like SaaS offerings.  We do not have any explicit guidelines
> on whether "provide public access to a Linux based distribution" is
> potentially enough to qualify for linux-distros or not.  We do have
> Amazon as a member, so there's that precedent.
> > >2. Have a userbase not limited to your own organization
> >
> > Microsoft customers have millions of cores running the various workloads
> > described above.
> >
> > >3. Have a publicly verifiable track record, dating back at least 1
> > >year and continuing to present day, of fixing security issues
> > >(including some that had been handled on (linux-)distros, meaning that
> > >membership would have been relevant to you) and releasing the fixes
> > >within 10 days (and preferably much less than that) of the issues
> > >being made public (if it takes you ages to fix an issue, your users
> > >wouldn't substantially benefit from the additional time, often around
> > >7 days and sometimes up to 14 days, that list membership could give
> > >you).
> >
> > Microsoft has decades long history of addressing security issues via
> > MSRC ( While we are able to
> > quickly (<1-2 hours) create a build to address disclosed security
> > issues, we require extensive testing and validation before we make these
> > builds public. Being members of this mailing list would provide us the
> > additional time we need for extensive testing.
> It'd be helpful if you could directly address this part: "including some
> that had been handled on (linux-)distros, meaning that membership would
> have been relevant to you".  Without such examples yet, we'd have to be
> guessing whether the membership would have been relevant to you or not.

I'm not aware of issues on the distros list, but Microsoft has been
very active in working with the broader community on Spectre/Meltdown
style mitigations.  I think the community would benefit overall from
their participation on distros.

> Right now, the statistics at:
> only go until the end of 2018, so you'd be able to use them for examples
> dating back to 2018 and earlier.  We should ask Gentoo to update these
> statistics soon, perhaps for period until end of June 2019, which will
> be possible soon.
> > >4. Not be (only) downstream or a rebuild of another distro (or else we
> > >need convincing additional justification of how the list membership
> > >would enable you to release fixes sooner, presumably not relying on
> > >the upstream distro having released their fixes first?)
> >
> > None of our builds are based on an existing distribution. For few of
> > these workloads we have a very custom kernel and userspace (such as for
> > Azure Sphere), while some share a more conventional kernel/userspace
> > configuration.
> >
> > >5. Be a participant and preferably an active contributor in relevant
> > >public communities (most notably, if you're not watching for issues
> > >being made public on oss-security, which are a superset of those that
> > >had been handled on (linux-)distros, then there's no valid reason for
> > >you to be on (linux-)distros)
> >
> > We follow closely public discussions with regards to security issues
> > that would affect us. While there was only a minor contribution back to
> > these lists mostly as we did not have any value to add back.
> >
> > During past years I've reported multiple security issues which were
> > assigned CVEs.
> >
> > >6. Accept the list policy (see above)
> >
> > We accept the list's policy.
> >
> > >7. Be able and willing to contribute back (see above), preferably in
> > >specific ways announced in advance (so that you're responsible for a
> > >specific area and so that we know what to expect from which member),
> > >and demonstrate actual contributions once you've been a member for a
> > >while
> >
> > We understand this need and will be contributing back. Looking at the
> > list of vacant positions I can suggest the following, but I suspect that
> > existing list members will have better suggestions.
> >
> > Technical:
> >
> > 3. Review and/or test the proposed patches and point out potential
> > issues with them (such as incomplete fixes for the originally reported
> > issues, additional issues you might notice, and newly introduced bugs),
> > and inform the list of the work done even if no issues were encountered
> > - primary: Amazon, backup: vacant
> >
> > Administrative:
> >
> > 3. Evaluate if the issue (or one of the issues) is effectively already
> > public (e.g., a fix is committed upstream with a descriptive message)
> > or/and is low severity and thus the report (or its portion pertaining to
> > the issue) should be made public right away for one or both of these
> > reasons, get a few other list members to confirm this understanding, and
> > if there are no objections then communicate this strong preference to
> > the reporter - primary: CloudLinux, backup: vacant
> If Microsoft volunteers for these, I'd like that to be in "primary" role
> at least for the technical task of "3. Review and/or test the proposed
> patches ..."  I think Amazon hasn't been doing enough on that front,
> especially given the request to "inform the list of the work done even
> if no issues were encountered".  Given this request, if this were
> seriously worked on, I would have expected such reports from Amazon on
> almost every issue handled on linux-distros, but this wasn't the case.

Hrm, I seem to have missed this last bit about no issues and I agree
we should be posting more.  We have this data for many of the issues
so I'll make sure to start posting it.


Anthony Liguori

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