General Pr0ken Filesystem – Hacking IBM’s GPFS

This post is a short wrap-up of our Troopers talk about the research we did on IBM’s General Parallel File System. If you are interested in all the technical details take a look at our slides or the video recording. We will also give an updated version of this talk at the PHDays conference in Moscow next month.

The IBM General Parallel File System is a distributed file system used in large scale enterprise environments, high performance clusters as well as some of the worlds largest super computers. It is considered by many in the industry to be the most feature rich and production hardened distributed file system currently available. GPFS has a long and really interesting history, going back to the Tiger Shark file system created by IBM 1993.

Of course, this makes it an interesting target for security research. When looking at GPFS from an implementation point of view, the Linux version is made up of three different components: User space utilities and helper scripts, the mmfsd network daemon and multiple Linux kernel modules. We (Florian Grunow and me) spent some time analyzing the internals of these components and discovered critical vulnerabilities in all of them.

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