Home News PixieFail Vulnerabilities Threaten PXE Boot Process in Major Enterprise Systems

PixieFail Vulnerabilities Threaten PXE Boot Process in Major Enterprise Systems

Recent research has unveiled a series of critical vulnerabilities, collectively termed ‘PixieFail’, posing significant risks to the PXE network boot process in enterprise systems. These flaws, found in the IPv6 network protocol stack of Tianocore’s EDK II, an open-source UEFI specification implementation, have raised concerns across various technology sectors.

Key Highlights:

  1. Nine vulnerabilities identified, affecting IPv6 in Tianocore’s EDK II.
  2. PixieFail attacks can lead to denial of service, information disclosure, and remote code execution.
  3. Major tech companies like Microsoft, Arm, Insyde, Phoenix Technologies, and American Megatrends impacted.
  4. The most severe flaws allow attackers to perform remote code execution.
  5. Proof-of-concept exploits released by Quarkslab for detection.


The discovery of the PixieFail vulnerabilities has brought a critical aspect of enterprise IT infrastructure into the spotlight: the security of the PXE network boot process. These vulnerabilities, found within the IPv6 network protocol stack of Tianocore’s EDK II, are not just a wake-up call for network administrators and security professionals but also for the entire enterprise technology ecosystem. As enterprises increasingly rely on complex networked systems, the discovery of such vulnerabilities underscores the need for more robust and resilient security measures.

In-Depth Analysis of PixieFail Flaws

The vulnerabilities arise from specific issues in the implementation of IPv6 in the Preboot Execution Environment (PXE), a component of the UEFI spec that enables network booting. The flaws are varied and can be exploited to cause a range of security issues.

Detailed Breakdown of Vulnerabilities:

CVE-2023-45229 to CVE-2023-45237: These cover issues from integer underflow and buffer overflow in DHCPv6 messages to predictable TCP Initial Sequence Numbers and weak pseudo-random number generators.

Widespread Impact and Mitigation Efforts

These vulnerabilities have a broad impact, affecting not just Tianocore’s EDK II UEFI implementation but also other vendors using its NetworkPkg module. This includes major technology companies and BIOS providers, with CERT/CC and CERT-FR coordinating disclosure efforts. Despite Google’s ChromeOS including the EDK2 package in its source code tree, it has been clarified that production Chromebooks are not affected.

Response from the Tech Industry:

  • Affected companies and vendors are actively working on patches and updates.
  • CERT/CC has published a notice with a list of affected vendors and mitigation guidance.

The Broader Context: Securing Network Boot Processes in Enterprises

PixieFail serves as a reminder of the ongoing challenges in securing complex network systems. It highlights the need for a multi-layered security approach, combining hardware, software, and network strategies.

Looking Ahead:

  • Ongoing collaboration between hardware vendors, software developers, and security researchers is crucial.
  • The incident underscores the need for regular security audits and updates in enterprise systems.
  • There’s a growing demand for more advanced security tools and protocols to protect against such vulnerabilities.

The PixieFail vulnerabilities present a serious threat to the integrity of network boot processes in enterprise systems. Affecting a range of major technology companies, these flaws highlight the importance of robust security practices in the implementation of network protocols. Ongoing efforts to address these vulnerabilities underscore the collaborative nature of cybersecurity in the tech industry.