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PolarSSL Security Advisory 2011-02

Title Weak random number generation within virtualized environments
CVE CVE-2011-4574
Date 15th of December 2011
Affects All version of PolarSSL prior to 1.1.0
Not affected Instances not running in virtualized environments
Impact Key retrieval possible
Exploit Withheld
Solution Upgrade to PolarSSL 1.1.0 and move to CTR_DRBG random generator
Workaround Provide another random source to the SSL layer
Credits Jacob Appelbaum, Marsh Ray, and Oscar Koeroo

Feedback from the security community has triggered an investigation into the quality of PolarSSL's random number generation within virtualized environments.

PolarSSL versions prior to v1.1 use the HAVEGE random number generation algorithm. At its heart, this uses timing information based on the processor's high resolution timer (the RDTSC instruction). This instruction can be virtualized, and some virtual machine hosts have chosen to disable this instruction, returning 0s or predictable results.

Further concerns have been raised on the HAVEGE implementation's sole dependence on timing data.


This issue affects machines running within environments where the RDTSC call has been disabled or handicapped. Currently, the problem seems to be limited to some commercial cloud server providers.

If affected, this means the RNG produces predictable random and as such security is severely compromised.


PolarSSL version 1.1.0 contains a new random number generator based on the CTR_DRBG algorithm specified in NIST-SP800-90. The entropy used by this algorithm is accumulated from multiple sources, including the existing HAVEGE RNG, platform-specific entropy sources and timing sources. This increases the quality of the entropy pool, and makes it less vulnerable to problems within a single source.


We advise everyone to move to the new CTR_DRBG algorithm and entropy pool if possible.

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Security Advisories



Last updated:
Jul 12, 2013


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