Houdini's Escape: Breaking the Resource Rein of Linux Control Groups

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ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS '19)
London UK,
Abstract. Linux Control Groups, i.e., cgroups, are the key building blocks to enable operating-system-level containerization. The cgroups mechanism partitions processes into hierarchical groups and applies different controllers to manage system resources, including CPU, memory, block I/O, etc. Newly spawned child processes automatically copy cgroups attributes from their parents to enforce resource control. Unfortunately, inherited cgroups confinement via process creation does not always guarantee consistent and fair resource accounting. In this paper, we devise a set of exploiting strategies to generate out-of-bandworkloads via de-associating processes from their original process groups. The system resources consumed by such workloads will not be charged to the appropriate cgroups. To further demonstrate the feasibility, we present five case studies within Docker containers to demonstrate how to break the resource rein of cgroups in realistic scenarios. Even worse, by exploiting those cgroups' insufficiencies in a multi-tenant container environment, an adversarial container is able to greatly amplify the amount of consumed resources, significantly slow-down other containers on the same host, and gain extra unfair advantages on the system resources. We conduct extensive experiments on both a local testbed and an Amazon EC2 cloud dedicated server. The experimental results demonstrate that a container can consume system resources (e.g., CPU) as much as $200\times$ of its limit, and reduce both computing and I/O performance of particular workloads in other co-resident containers by 95%.
author = {Xing and Gao and Zhongshu and Gu and Hani and Jamjoom and Zhenfa and Li and Cong and Wang},
title = {{Houdini's Escape: Breaking the Resource Rein of Linux Control Groups}},
booktitle = {ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS '19)},
address = {London UK},
month = {Nov},
year = {2019}