Vulnerability Management Process

The OpenStack Vulnerability Management Team is responsible for coordinating the progressive disclosure of a vulnerability.

Members of the team are independent and security-minded folks who ensure that vulnerabilities are dealt with in a timely manner and that downstream stakeholders are notified in a coordinated and fair manner. Where a member of the team is employed by a downstream stakeholder, the member does not give their employer prior notice of any vulnerabilities. In order to reduce the disclosure of vulnerability in the early stages, membership of this team is intentionally limited to a small number of people.

Supported versions

The Vulnerability Management team coordinates patches fixing vulnerabilities in maintained stable branches (corresponding to previous major releases) of OpenStack, in addition to the master branch (next version under development), for all Repositories Overseen.


Each security bug is assigned a VMT coordinator (member from the vulnerability management team) that will drive the fixing and disclosure process. Here are the steps we follow.

VMT Process


A report can be received either as a private encrypted email to one of the VMT members, or as a StoryBoard or Launchpad security bug (check the box marked “this is a security issue”).

The first steps performed by the VMT are to:

  • create a bug in StoryBoard or Launchpad if one does not yet exist

  • check that the report indicates the correct project and adjust as necessary

  • prefix the report description with an embargo reminder including an end date for its embargo

  • add a Todo/Incomplete task for the openstack/ossa or ossa project

  • subscribe the project’s core security review team for confirmation of impact and determination of affected branches

  • add a comment with an incomplete reception message

Once the VMT confirms an OSSA is warranted, the ossa bugtask status will be set to Progress/Confirmed. If the need for an OSSA is challenged, the ossa bugtask status should be set back to Todo/Incomplete until that question is resolved.

If no OSSA is warranted and there is no benefit to an OSSN then the ossa bugtask will be set to Won’t Fix or Invalid (depending on the tracker and situation) and the bug state switched from Private Security to Public, optionally adding a security bug tag if the report concerns a potential security hardening opportunity. The specifics are indexed in the report taxonomy and OSSA Task status tables.

Patch development

For a private report, the reporter (automatic if reported directly as a bug) and the affected projects’ core security review teams plus anyone they deem necessary to develop and validate a fix are added to the bug’s subscription list. A fix is proposed as a patch to the current master branch (as well as any affected supported branches) and attached to the private bug report, not sent to the public code review system.

For public reports, there is no need to directly subscribe anyone and patches can be submitted directly to the code review system instead of as bug attachments (though the bug should be referenced in any commit messages so it will be updated automatically).

If project-side delays are encountered at this or any subsequent stage of the process, the VMT and other interested parties may reach out to that project’s security liaison requesting more immediate attention to the issue.

Patch review

For a private report once the initial patch has been attached to the bug, core reviewers on the subscription list from the project in question should review it and suggest updates or pre-approve it for merging. Privately-developed patches need to be pre-approved so that they can be fast-tracked through public code review later at disclosure time.

For public reports, OpenStack’s usual public code review and approval processes apply.

Draft impact description

In the mean time, the VMT coordinator prepares a vulnerability description that will be communicated to downstream stakeholders, and will serve as the basis for the Security Advisory that will be finally published.

The description should properly credit the reporter, specify affected versions (including unsupported ones) and accurately describe impact and mitigation mechanisms. The VMT coordinator should use the template below. Once the description is posted, the openstack/ossa or ossa bugtask status should be switched to Review/Triaged.

Review impact description

The description is validated by the reporter and the PTL.

Send CVE request

To ensure full traceability, we attempt to obtain a CVE assignment before the issue is communicated to a larger public. This is generally done as the patch gets nearer to final approval. The ossa bugtask status is set to In progress and the approved impact description is submitted through MITRE’s CVE Request form. The request type is Request a CVE ID, the e-mail address should be that of the requester (generally the assigned VMT coordinator in the case of reports officially managed by the VMT), and for embargoed reports the coordinator’s OpenPGP key should be pasted into the field provided.

In the required section set the checkboxes indicating the product is not CNA-covered and that no prior CVE ID has been assigned, select an appropriate vulnerability type (using Other or Unknown to enter a freeform type if there is nothing relevant on the drop-down), set the vendor to OpenStack, and the product and version fields to match the $PROJECTS and $AFFECTED_VERSIONS from the impact description. In the optional section set the radio button for confirmed/acknowledged to Yes, choose an appropriate attack type in the drop-down (often this is Context-dependent for our cases), check the relevant impact checkboxes, attempt to fill in the affected components and attack vector fields if possible, paste in the suggested description from the prose of the impact description (usually omitting the first sentence as it’s redundant with other fields), put the $CREDIT details in the discoverer/credits field, and the bug URL (along with Gerrit URLs for patches if already public) in the references field. If the report is still private, note that in the additional information field like This report is currently under embargo and no disclosure date has been scheduled at this time.

At the bottom of the page, fill in the security code and click the submit request button. If some fields contain invalid data they will be highlighted red; correct these, update the security code and submit request again until you get a confirmation page.

Get assigned CVE

MITRE returns the assigned CVE. It is added to the bug (see “link to CVE” at the top-right in Launchpad or use a story comment in StoryBoard), and the bug is retitled to “$TITLE ($CVE)”.

Embargoed disclosure

Once the patches are approved and the CVE is assigned, a signed email with the vulnerability description is sent to the downstream stakeholders. The disclosure date is set to 3-5 business days, excluding Monday/Friday and holiday periods, at 1500 UTC. No stakeholder is supposed to deploy public patches before disclosure date. Once the email is sent, any stakeholders who reply requesting subscription to the report may be added.

For non-embargoed, public vulnerabilities no separate downstream advance notification is sent. Instead the OSSA bugtask is set to fix committed status once the CVE assignment is received OSSA is drafting begins immediately.

Open bug, Push patch

In preparation for this, make sure you have a core reviewer and a stable maintainer available to help pushing the fix at disclosure time.

On the disclosure hour, open bug, push patches to Gerrit for review on master and supported stable branches, fast-track approvals (referencing the bug).

Update the bug title to “[OSSA-$NUM] $TITLE”.

Embargo reminder can be removed at that point.

MITRE’s CVE Request form should be used again at this point, but instead select a request type of Notify CVE about a publication and fill in the coordinator’s e-mail address, provide a link to the advisory (the URL to it on if this was an official OSSA), the CVE IDs covered, and the date published. Once more, fill in the security code at the bottom of the page and submit request.

Publish OSSA

Shortly after pushing the patches (potentially waiting for the first test runs to complete), publish the advisory to the OpenStack ML. Wait until all patches merged to supported branches before setting the ossa bugtask status to Fix released.

All patches merged

Patches approved in code review do not necessarily merge immediately, but should be tracked closely until they do (if the bug number is correctly identified in commit messages then it will be automatically updated to reflect this as well). Subsequent security point releases of affected software may then be tagged if warranted.

Abnormal embargo termination

If a report is held in embargo for 90 days without a fix, or significant details of the report are disclosed in a public venue, the embargo is terminated by a VMT coordinator at that time and subsequent process switches to the public report workflow instead.

Report Taxonomy

The VMT is now using this classification list in order to assist vulnerability report triage, especially whenever a bug does not warrant an advisory.




Class A


A vulnerability to be fixed in master and all supported releases

Class B1


A vulnerability that can only be fixed in master, security note for stable branches, e.g., default config value is insecure

Class B2


A vulnerability without a complete fix yet, security note for all versions, e.g., poor architecture / design

Class B3


A vulnerability in experimental or debugging features not intended for production use

Class C1

Potential OSSN

Not considered a practical vulnerability (but some people might assign a CVE for it)

Class C2

Potential OSSN

A vulnerability, but not in OpenStack supported code, e.g., in a dependency

Class D

Potential OSSN

Not a vulnerability, just a bug with (some) security implications, e.g., strengthening opportunities / misleading documentation

Class E

Neither a vulnerability nor hardening opportunity

Class Y

Vulnerability only found in development release

Class Z

When due process fails

OSSA Task status

Here is a summary of the different OSSA task status meanings:




It is still unclear whenever the report warrants an advisory


The vulnerability is confirmed, impact description is in progress


Impact description has been submitted for review

Merged/Fix Released

All patches have been merged

Invalid/Won’t Fix

No further action to be taken

Extent of Disclosure

The science of vulnerability management is somewhere around being able to assess impact and severity of a report, being able to design security patches, being an obsessive process-following perfectionist and respecting the rule of lesser disclosure.

Lesser disclosure is about disclosing the vulnerability details to an increasing number of people over time, but only to the people that are necessary to reach the next step. The diagram above shows “disclosure extent” across the various steps of the process.

Vulnerability reporters retain final control over the disclosure of their findings. If for some reason they are uncomfortable with our process, their choice of disclosure terms prevails.

Embargo exceptions

To keep the embargo period short and effective, the VMT may choose to open bug reports. Issues that take too much time to be fixed (e.g., more than 2 weeks) or issues that require a complex patch are usually better solved in the open. Only under unusual circumstances should any embargo extend past 90 days.

Downstream stakeholders

OpenStack as an upstream project is used in a number of distributions, products, private and public service offerings that are negatively affected by vulnerabilities. In the spirit of coordinated disclosure, this ecosystem, collectively known as the downstream stakeholders, needs to be warned in advance to be able to prepare patches and roll them out in a coordinated fashion on disclosure day. The embargo period is kept voluntarily small (3-5 business days), as a middle ground between keeping the vulnerability under cover for too long and not giving a chance to downstream stakeholders to react.

If you’re currently not a referenced stakeholder and think you should definitely be included on that email distribution list, please submit an email with a rationale to member(s) of the Vulnerability Management Team.


Reception incomplete message (unconfirmed issues)

Since this report concerns a possible security risk, an incomplete
security advisory task has been added while the core security
reviewers for the affected project or projects confirm the bug and
discuss the scope of any vulnerability along with potential

Reception embargo reminder (private issues)

This issue is being treated as a potential security risk under
embargo. Please do not make any public mention of embargoed
(private) security vulnerabilities before their coordinated
publication by the OpenStack Vulnerability Management Team in the
form of an official OpenStack Security Advisory. This includes
discussion of the bug or associated fixes in public forums such as
mailing lists, code review systems and bug trackers. Please also
avoid private disclosure to other individuals not already approved
for access to this information, and provide this same reminder to
those who are made aware of the issue prior to publication. All
discussion should remain confined to this private bug report, and
any proposed fixes should be added to the bug as attachments. This
embargo shall not extend past $NINETY_DAYS and will be made
public by or on that date even if no fix is identified.

The NINETY_DAYS value should be 90 days from the date the report is accepted by the coordinator and project reviewers are subscribed. It can be trivially calculated with the date -I -d90days shell command.

Impact description ($DESCRIPTION)

Title: $TITLE
Reporter: $CREDIT
Products: $PROJECT

$CREDIT reported a vulnerability in [project feature name].
By doing [action] a [actor] may [impact] resulting in [consequence].
Only [project deployment mode] are affected.

The AFFECTED_VERSIONS needs to stay valid after the fix is released. For example, when kilo, liberty and mitaka are still security supported, the AFFECTED_VERSIONS of keystone should read like this:

Affects: >=2015.1.0 <2015.1.5, >=8.0.0 <8.1.1 and ==9.0.0

Once kilo reaches end of life, that line becomes:

Affects: >=8.0.0 <8.1.1 and ==9.0.0

If the oldest version affected is not easily identified, leave it open-ended:

Affects: <8.1.1 and ==9.0.0

By convention, the < version is the next possible patchlevel release following three-component SemVer rules, so if the current highest affected version on a given branch is 8.1.0 then the affected versions includes <8.1.1 even though the next actual version tagged might well be 8.2.0 or 9.0.0 (but since we don’t know what the next version will necessarily be at the time of publication, we choose the lowest possible version it could be). This convention also makes it clear that prerelease versions may not be sufficient to address the vulnerability.

Downstream stakeholders notification email (private issues)

We send two separate emails, to avoid off-topic replies to linux-distros:

The message body for both emails should be identical:

This is an advance warning of a vulnerability discovered in
OpenStack, to give you, as downstream stakeholders, a chance to
coordinate the release of fixes and reduce the vulnerability window.
Please treat the following information as confidential until the
proposed public disclosure date.


Proposed patch:
See attached patches. Unless a flaw is discovered in them, these
patches will be merged to their corresponding branches on the public
disclosure date.


Proposed public disclosure date/time:
Please do not make the issue public (or release public patches)
before this coordinated embargo date.

Original private report:$BUG
For access to read and comment on this report, please reply to me
with your Launchpad username and I will subscribe you.
OpenStack Vulnerability Management Team

Proposed patches are attached, email must be GPG-signed. Use something unique and descriptive for the patch attachment file names, for example cve-2013-4183-master-havana.patch or cve-2013-4183-stable-grizzly.patch.

Note that the post to linux-distros should be encrypted to the key at and expect replies to arrive encrypted for the key with which you signed your message.

OpenStack security advisories (OSSA)

The document is first submitted as a yaml description to the ossa project using this template:

date: YYYY-MM-DD


title: '$TITLE'


  - product: $PROJECT

  - cve-id: $CVE

  - name: '$CREDIT'
    affiliation: $CREDIT_AFFILIATION
      - $CVE




  - 'Optional note such as cross project version requirements'

Once approved, view the gate-ossa-docs output and browse to the rendered HTML advisory, then alter the URL to insert _sources/ before the first path component and change the file extension to rst to get the generated RST document. We send two separate emails, to avoid off-topic replies to oss-security list:

Subject and content for both emails is identical:

  • Subject: [OSSA-$NUM] $PROJECT: $TITLE ($CVE)

  • Body: The generated RST document


  • Email must be GPG-signed.

  • $CVE must always be of the form CVE-YYYY-XXXX

  • $NUM is of the form YYYY-XX