Memory leak when using websocket over a low speed network

Bug #1718964 reported by Carl Brassey on 2017-09-22
This bug affects 3 people
Affects Status Importance Assigned to Milestone
Daniel Berrange

Bug Description

Description of problem

When VNC is connected to QEMU via websocket over a low speed network (e.g. 300KB/S Wide Area Network), and there is a lot of frame buffer update, the VNC Client will get stuck, the cursor is almost impossible to move, which may result in accumulation of a large number of data in the QEMU process (memory consumption will keep increasing).

All of the following versions have been tested:

QEMU: 2.5.1 / 2.6.0 / / 2.9.0 / 2.10.0
Host OS: Ubuntu 16.04 Server LTS / CentOS 7 x86_64_1611
Guest OS: Windows 7 64bit / Ubuntu 16.04 Desktop LTS
Client OS: Windows 7 64bit / Windows 10 64bit
Client Browser: IE 11.0.9600 / Chrome 60.0.3112 / Firefox 55.0.2
VNC Client: TigerVNC Viewer 1.8 / UltraVNC Viewer / TightVNC Viewer 2.8.8
VNC Web Client: noVNC 0.5.1 / noVNC 0.61 / noVNC 0.62
VNC Server: TigerVNC 1.8 / x11vnc 0.9.13 / TightVNC 2.8.8
VNC Client: TigerVNC Viewer 1.8 / UltraVNC Viewer / TightVNC Viewer 2.8.8

Steps to reproduce:
100% reproducible.

1. Launch a QEMU instance with websocket option:
qemu-system-x86_64 -enable-kvm -m 6G ./win_x64.qcow2 -vnc :1,websocket=5701

2. Open VNC Web Client (noVNC/vnc.html) in browser and connect to QEMU VM via websocket

3. Play a video (e.g. Watch YouTube) on VM (To produce a lot of frame buffer update)

4. Limit (e.g. Use NetLimiter) the client inbound bandwidth to 300KB/S (To simulate a low speed WAN)

5. Then client's output gets stuck(less than 1 fps), the cursor is almost impossible to move

6. Observe QEMU process on the host, more and more data are accumulated in the process, the consumption of memory continues to keep increasing

Current result:
[Top - Initial status]
 2725 root 20 0 7229144 5.910g 23024 S 16.3 18.9 0:12.84 qemu-system-x86_64

[Top - After an hour's playing w/o limit (6-8MB/S)]
 2725 root 20 0 7370284 6.046g 23132 S 28.0 19.3 35:58.15 qemu-system-x86_64

[Top - Limit the bandwidth and continue to playing for another an hour (300KB/S)]
 2725 root 20 0 11.029g 8.853g 23132 S 20.0 28.2 72:14.17 qemu-system-x86_64

Also test several other combinations in the same environment:

1. Client(VNC Viewer) - Server(QEMU)
2. Client(VNC Viewer) - Server(tigervnc/x11vnc/tightvnc)
3. Client(noVNC) - Server(tigervnc/x11vnc/tightvnc)

Likewise, the client's inbound bandwidth is limited to 300KB/S,
although a lot of frame are lost, all of they still works (at least the mouse is movable).

It's found that when connect to QEMU via websocket, it never drop any frames.
QEMU still sends a lot of data to its websocket even when the network is congested,
the process is continually consuming more memory, then it gets stack.

Expected results:
When the network is poor (non-LAN), QEMU would reduce the VNC data send to its websocket correspondingly, and the memory usage remains stable.

CVE References

Daniel Berrange (berrange) wrote :

Thanks for your report. I've not tried reproducing yet, but from the looking at the code I think I can see why this happens. Code in vnc_update_client discards incoming frame updates from the guest if the output buffer has data pending in it, but it only checks the main VNC server output buffer usage. It fails to check the websockets output buffer usage.

Changed in qemu:
assignee: nobody → Daniel Berrange (berrange)
Daniel Berrange (berrange) wrote :

In the modern code this needs fixing in the io/channel-websock.c impl - it is checking the output buffer limit against the wrong buffer - it uses 'rawoutput' instead of 'encoutput', so this fix is easy enough there.

The code is in fact broken all the way back to day1 of the introduction of websockets support though in QEMU 1.2.1 In the historical code it can be fixed by checking ws_output.offset in vnc_update_client as I mentioned previously

lynncn (lynncn) wrote :

We are experiencing the same problem.

At first, we thought the bug is in QEMU's websocket code then we tried using a standalone websocket proxy (websockify). Unfortunately, problems persisted.

We also tried various other VNC servers (with websockify), all of them work fine. It seems that the issue is specific to QEMU.

Daniel Berrange (berrange) wrote :

This has been assigned CVE-2017-15268

Changed in qemu:
status: New → Fix Committed
Daniel Berrange (berrange) wrote :

commit a7b20a8efa28e5f22c26c06cd06c2f12bc863493
Author: Daniel P. Berrange <email address hidden>
Date: Mon Oct 9 14:43:42 2017 +0100

    io: monitor encoutput buffer size from websocket GSource

    The websocket GSource is monitoring the size of the rawoutput
    buffer to determine if the channel can accepts more writes.
    The rawoutput buffer, however, is merely a temporary staging
    buffer before data is copied into the encoutput buffer. Thus
    its size will always be zero when the GSource runs.

    This flaw causes the encoutput buffer to grow without bound
    if the other end of the underlying data channel doesn't
    read data being sent. This can be seen with VNC if a client
    is on a slow WAN link and the guest OS is sending many screen
    updates. A malicious VNC client can act like it is on a slow
    link by playing a video in the guest and then reading data
    very slowly, causing QEMU host memory to expand arbitrarily.

    This issue is assigned CVE-2017-15268, publically reported in

    Reviewed-by: Eric Blake <email address hidden>
    Signed-off-by: Daniel P. Berrange <email address hidden>

Thomas Huth (th-huth) on 2017-12-15
Changed in qemu:
status: Fix Committed → Fix Released
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