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Date: Sun, 15 May 2022 09:41:37 -0700
From: Igor Seletskiy <>
Subject: Re: linux-distros list policy and Linux kernel

My vote would be for #1
Linux kernel is a huge ecosystem in its own right with many vested
players.  They arrived at their way of handling security issues, and
overall doing a good job. It will be really hard to change that
ecosystem from the outside. This would make #2 very similar to #3 in many

On the other hand, the linux-distros mailing list is very valuable for the
participating distros (at least it is very valuable for CloudLinux OS), and
losing it as a resource would be dreadful for us. So would be losing only
part of the information related to the Linux kernel. As such I don't like
either #3 or #4.

I also don't like #0, as it seems we have a fairly concrete case to deal
with, and it can be dealt with explicitly using #1.

Igor Seletskiy |  CEO
CloudLinux OS <>   |   KernelCare
<>   |   Imunify360 <> |
AlmaLinux <>

On Sun, May 15, 2022 at 9:28 AM Solar Designer <> wrote:

> Hi,
> This is a lengthy and belated message, yet I think is something we need
> to discuss in here.
> Context:
> (linux-)distros list policy is generally to treat as public issues for
> which a fix is public.  For issues that haven't yet been brought to
> (linux-)distros, this means they shouldn't be - and instead should be
> brought to oss-security right away.  For issues that have been on
> (linux-)distros, this means an oss-security posting is to be made as
> soon as a fix is made public.
> This works well for most distros (where releasing a package update
> generally implies documenting the update's known security relevance at
> the same time) and for (linux-)distros list interactions with most
> projects, with the major exception being the Linux kernel.
> For Linux kernel maintainers, it is customary to post a fix technically
> publicly but without indication of its security relevance, then work on
> getting it merged into the various trees, and expect that its security
> relevance wouldn't be clearly indicated publicly for a while.
> I didn't keep track of statistics, but my impression was that in the
> last few years for issues handled with linux-distros involved, the
> maintainers usually reluctantly accepted linux-distros' way of handling
> them - didn't insist that the reporter would post e.g. to netdev before
> a "final" patch is ready, agreed on and honored coordinated release
> dates, and didn't object to linux-distros members asking the reporter to
> post about the issue to oss-security on the same day that a posting to a
> Linux kernel list is made.  I was grateful for that, especially knowing
> that some of this is an inconvenience/overhead for the maintainers.
> The handling was still often problematic (somehow way worse than for
> other projects, in my impression), but that appeared to be because
> discoverers/reporters were not familiar with the procedure and with our
> expectations, or/and because our policy and thus expectations were
> counter-intuitive for them (I admit this could mean that we were wrong
> in having such unexpected policy).  This also suggested that many didn't
> fully read or didn't understand our published policy before posting to
> linux-distros, which I tried to address by adding clarifications, some
> emphasized in bold and eventually even in ALL CAPS (not as shouting, but
> to make these parts less likely overlooked).
> Somehow it seems to have gotten worse this year.  In handling of an
> issue in February, a reporter planned to ignore our policy after having
> already shared an issue with linux-distros, and a list member from a
> major distro tried to enforce the policy.  In discussion that followed,
> a kernel maintainer (someone I have a lot of respect for, and who I
> think is also on the kernel security team?) said he had directed the
> reporter to share the issue with linux-distros despite of the reporter's
> explicit concerns and non-acceptance of the policy, expecting that
> linux-distros members would be "reasonable" and won't actually enforce
> the "unreasonable" policy (I don't recall the exact wording used, but
> that's the gist of it).  So it was not a case of something unexpected
> being overlooked by someone new - it was a case of the policy being
> deliberately violated by someone very experienced.  (Moreover, we also
> got accused of shouting with the ALL CAPS.)
> linux-distros members and Linux kernel security team didn't arrive at an
> agreement on how to handle further issues, planning to bring this up for
> discussion on oss-security - which I am finally doing now.  Meanwhile,
> the handling was hectic - indeed, people felt discouraged from enforcing
> the policy.  Another kernel maintainer also mentioned he's no longer
> directing people to linux-distros (which I find more reasonable than
> coercing/expecting linux-distros not to enforce a published policy).
> Question:
> Should we address this incompatibility in desired handling of issues by
> the distros vs. kernel teams, and how?
> Options:
> Off the top of my head, we can do one of:
> 0. Do nothing specific - let things work or fail on their own.
> 1. Adjust linux-distros policy to allow "embargoes" on publicly fixed
> Linux kernel issues.  (Only for Linux kernel, not for other projects.)
> However, besides not posting to oss-security this probably means also
> not releasing distro kernel updates until the "embargo" is over (when
> the changes hit a stable tree maybe?), thus exposing most Linux users to
> vulnerabilities that some attackers can infer from Linux kernel mailing
> lists and git commits.
> The current policy:
> already includes an exception in:
> "Please note that in case a fix for an issue is already in a publicly
> accessible source code repository, we generally consider the issue
> public (and thus you should post to oss-security right away, not report
> the issue to (linux-)distros as we'd merely redirect you to oss-security
> anyway and insist that you make the required posting ASAP).  There can
> be occasional (rare) exceptions to this, such as if the publicly
> accessible fix doesn't look like it's for a security issue (e.g., if the
> corresponding changes were initially made for unrelated reasons and were
> only later realized to have fixed a non-public security issue) and not
> revealing this publicly right away is somehow desirable.  You'd have to
> have very sound reasoning to claim an exception like this and be
> prepared to lose your argument and if so to post to oss-security ASAP
> anyway."
> This currently talks about fixes that are already public at the time of
> reporting to (linux-)distros, it requires "very sound reasoning", and it
> allows (linux-)distros to insist that the issue be made public ASAP.
> In my understanding, the Linux kernel folks want an exception like this
> also for publicly fixing issues already being handled with linux-distros
> involved, and to have the exception granted unconditionally with no way
> for linux-distros not to agree to it in a given case.  (Please correct
> me if I misunderstand.)
> 2. Strictly enforce the policy as it is - and be in conflict with Linux
> kernel security team, and handle fewer issues via linux-distros.
> As a sub-option, also suggest that if a reporter or/and upstream does
> not accept the policy, they can nevertheless use the list to establish
> direct communication with interested distros - post a vague message like
> "I found a [type, impact] vulnerability in the Linux kernel [versions,
> subsystem], but I don't accept the list policy - please contact me
> directly if you'd like to receive the details on my terms anyway."
> Maybe with or without the clarifications I put in square brackets there.
> 3. Ask that Linux kernel issues not be reported to linux-distros at all.
> This is unnecessarily limiting compared to option 2 above, but maybe not
> so conflicting (just not using this specific medium for communication).
> However, I think it won't work consistently - it would be too
> unexpected by many (indeed, out of context it sounds plain ridiculous),
> and linux-distros is referenced in older Linux kernel release trees.
> More importantly, both teams actually want to communicate on issues
> somewhere, and there isn't a good alternative currently.
> 4. Shut down the list.  (What about the non-Linux distros list, then?)
> I need to migrate the setup soon and ideally also update it later, so
> shutting it down is as simple as not putting more effort into it.  It's
> been around for 11 years.
> I don't like any of these options.  Any other ideas?  Any ways to make
> option 1 more reasonable?
> Alexander

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