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Date: Thu, 4 May 2017 22:11:04 +0800
From: Shawn <>
To: Kees Cook <>
Cc: Rik van Riel <>, Mathias Krause <>, 
	Daniel Cegiełka <>, 
	"" <>
Subject: Re: It looks like there will be no more public
 versions of PaX and Grsec.

On Thu, May 4, 2017 at 1:45 PM, Kees Cook <> wrote:
>> btw: I share the same view with Mathias Krause and other ppl who
>> really concern the real sense of security. I like KSPP in the 1st
>> place. But now I lost PaX/Grsecurity test patch. Who should I blame? I
>> think we made our point very clear here:
> Well, there's exactly one group that decided to pull the patches. If
> you want to assign blame, I think it's clear it falls squarely on
> their shoulders.
> To the first point at your URL, there's a lot of inaccuracies. KSPP is
> an upstream group; CII funds individuals (not the whole of KSPP) that
> make independent proposals. In fact, the very first CII funded person
> was ephox from grsecurity. So ... if CII funding contributors to
> upstream was the problem, then grsecurity created their own problem?
> That makes no sense.
> As for "hardly accomplished anything compared to grsecurity" that's a
> pretty unfair comparison to make. Upstream has been really focusing on
> this for maybe 2 years at best now? And grsecurity has been doing it
> for over a decade? And besides, "upstream doesn't have all of
> grsecurity upstreamed" isn't a reason to blame upstream for grsecurity
> going private.
> How can you say "introduced more bugs"? I'd be happy to fix them, if
> you see them. And as I talked about in my reply to Mathias, of course
> things look incomplete in upstream: they're being developed like
> everything else in upstream: incrementally. It is not possible to just
> fork-lift everything from grsecurity into upstream. It's just not how
> upstream development works.
> To this notion that there is some kind of conspiracy by LF to snub
> grsecurity is just flat out silly. LF isn't upstream (though, sure,
> they support a lot of the work). Upstream developers can't control
> what or how LF says things (and few of us have time to deal with
> that). If you look at things in upstream that came from grsecurity,
> you'll see plenty of credit given. That sure seems like upstream
> "revealing the truth to the public". Look at the copyright notices in
> the gcc plugins, in mm/usercopy.c, and the notes in the Kconfigs, and
> the commit messages. Look at my own blog posts covering the features,
> look at the KSPP wiki page. The vast majority of things attributable
> to grsecurity, do, in fact, give credit. So upstream certainly isn't
> "blatantly stealing credit from grsecurity", so why would LF? And if
> this single PR statement from LF is still seen as a sudden marketing
> war against grsecurity, then I would ask "How is making the patches
> private the solution?" Grsecurity has spent over a decade mocking and
> berating upstream (just look at LWN), so how does a single article
> from LF suddenly undo all their work to differentiate themselves? This
> whole line of reasoning is convoluted, and frankly, has absolutely
> nothing to do with upstream's efforts to protect Linux users.
I don't have the problem with ephox funded by CII for upstreaming GCC
plugins. I blame LF/CII's( I can't speak for other ppl from
HardenedLinux) PR because they've been doing PR since the day 1 of
KSPP. A lot of ppl being misled by their improper PR including BLUG(
Beijing GNU/Linux User Group) and my customers. I don't know how LF
sells their "service" or "membership" and what stories they tell to
enterprise management. Eventually some of my customers indeed being
affected by some false sense of security advertisement about linux
security. As a security consultant, how am I suppose to answer the
question like "there are a bunch of exploits in the wild and the
linux( KSPP?) can't mitigate, which isn't the stories we've had heard"
from customers? I understand it's unfair to compare KSPP with
PaX/Grsecurity. But the fact is there are multiple exploitable bugs in
the wild that's the reason I can not rely on KSPP now:

You may still remember those days that "one null-ptr deref exploit can
rule them all". It was my nightmare that endless breaches from both
outside and inside. PaX's KERNEXEC/UDEREF saved my time back then. As
the evidences show that PaX/Grsec is still the most effective defense
in RING0 so far.

That announcement only represented the POV from a group of ppl. From
my( and other ppl from HardenedLinux) perspective, Linux foundation is
a commercial company and very good at PR but zero integrity to us.
They don't respect individuals and the community. But I never said
KSPP don't credited PaX/Grsecurity in the commits or Kconfig. I've
been reviewing you guys work, which porting some pieces of
PaX/Grsecurity code/features to the mainline. I'm glad to see linux
kernel is raising the bar. I translated KSPP documentation into
Chinese and let more ppl( both community and commercial customers need
education) know there are some ppl care security and trying to achieve
the security level what PaX/Grsecurity can provided. But what LF PR
does is really harmful to my efforts. I'll have to spend my extra time
on explanation and writing reports for those victims( customers, other
vendors, even one of my investors). As I see, LF was trying to
sabotage the small open source consulting business like mine.

Otherwise, I don't care about Spender's personality stuff. All I
concern is the practical defense solution to protect our asset from
those threats not only from Ring 0. Both fortunate and unfortunate
that PaX/Grsec is still an option. We build our defense solution based
on PaX/Grsecurity and some of our work is open source at
HardenedLinux's github.

> It'd be nice if I could convince you otherwise (see my reply to
> Mathias), but upstream hasn't "created more work" for grsecurity. And
> even if you still believe that, making their patches private doesn't
> reduce the amount of work they have to do. It just forces people to
> pay them.
> You later speak of philosophy, so let me ask you: if they've forced
> their users to pay for access because their features were being
> upstreamed, then they do not want these protections available to
> everyone, they want them available only to those who would pay for
> them. To me, though, it still can't be this simplistic. They've mostly
> rejected spending free time to upstream things, they've mostly
> rejected being paid to upstream things, and their efforts to be paid
> to just work on grsecurity in the open (see the CII thread from a
> while back) haven't worked, or are insufficient in some way. What is
> it that grsecurity wants?
> It looks very much like they want to stay a fork and be paid for it. I
> certainly can't blame them for this; upstreaming is hard and as
> Mathias says, they lose a certain level of control over the results.
> Fundamentally, it's their time; they can do whatever they want with
> it. And looking to be paid for your time is of course perfectly
> sensible. But if this desire to stay a fork is true, then their
> primary goal is NOT protecting as many people as possible, it's
> protecting a subset of people as perfectly as they can. Again, this is
> fine. Upstream and grsecurity can coexist in this state (since again,
> upstreaming doesn't increase their work), and this was the state for
> over a decade. But suddenly grsecurity went private.
> So it would appear that grsecurity couldn't make enough money with
> their patches staying public, so they've made them private. If that's
> true, then it means that everyone who was using grsecurity but wasn't
> a sponsor of grsecurity's work holds some level of responsibility for
> grsecurity's decision.
> It could be argued that upstream is "using grsecurity but wasn't a
> sponsor", but this would be missing an important point: upstream's
> contribution to grsecurity is Linux itself, which has giant value.
> (And for my part personally, I did everything I could to pay
> grsecurity, and succeeded a couple times over the years.) With this we
> have come back around to looking at the GPL, which you mentioned. This
> is specifically what the GPL was created to protect against. Why
> hasn't grsecurity paid money to the tens of thousands of contributors
> to the Linux kernel? Because they don't have to, and that is part of
> the understanding about using the GPL for a project: everyone
> contributes what they can, and everyone benefits. And if there are
> forks, people can use each other's work so no one is risking being in
> a situation where someone is unfairly benefiting from someone else's
> work.
> You had invoked RMS, so, here we are. It looks like grsecurity has
> gone private because upstream started exercising the princples of the
> GPL to expand how many upstream users would benefit from grsecurity's
> work in the same way grsecurity's users benefited from upstream's
> work. In answer to "who should I blame?" I'd say this is squarely on
> grsecurity, not anyone else. They've chosen to benefit from upstream's
> future work without making their future work available to upstream.
> But maybe this is all wrong. Neither of us can speak for grsecurity,
> nor know their motivations. I've always tried to avoid these kinds of
> discussions for that very reason, and to stay focused on the technical
> work. I can only truly speak for myself. I was faced with a seemingly
> simple problem: Linux users need to be protected, the vast majority of
> Linux users run upstream-derived kernels, but many of the best
> defenses lived in grsecurity. What I'd learned from working at an
> industry group (OSDL, the pre-LF), working at a distro (Canonical on
> Ubuntu), and now working on devices and services (Google), is that
> engineering teams in most places won't risk basing their work on a
> fork of upstream, whether it be support concerns, cost concerns,
> complexity concerns, or whatever. At the end of the day, it was clear
> that the only path forward was to focus upstream on the same defense
> principles grsecurity espoused, and to then start porting or creating
> these kinds of defenses in upstream. (Which is the very thing
> grsecurity told upstream to do at the first Linux Security Summit in
> 2010!) Doing this work was very time consuming, so I tried to collect
> interested people together to work under a single umbrella to help
> change the upstream culture, examine flaws, port or invent defenses,
> test, document, etc.
Maybe you are right from your perspective. I appreciate what you've
contributed to the FLOSS community since you were working for
Canonical. Upstream is good but it's always raising the bar but never
being good enough for the defensive side. It never bothers me when I
worked for two towers of GNU/Linux vendor( SUSE/RH). It bothers me now
and the desert of the real is happening every single day, while spend
another years of waiting is not practical to those who concerns their

Speaking of GPL, closing the public access isn't violate GPL
technically. On the other hand, the authors of PaX/Grsecurity can do
anything they want. It's their rights. To be honest, ppl who concerns
security are minority. It's sad to see this group of ppl lost test
patch. They shared their work with FLOSS world for 16 years. I don't
think I have the rights to blame them. Anyway, I'd still blame LF.

> So, in the end, I can't speak to grsecurity's true motivations, but I
> can speak to mine, and what I'd like upstream to be doing: protecting
> as many Linux users as completely as possible. What's possible in
> upstream differs from what was possible in grsecurity, so no one
> should expect the same things between the two. Comparing the two
> projects is fraught with error, and blaming anyone other than
> grsecurity for going private is ridiculous.
>> Agree! I'm afraid I can't help much on upstream because that's not my
>> customer want in short-term. S0rry, my idealist side never fit in
>> KSPP.
> Sure, understood. I'm delighted you've spent time getting kernel
> hardening stuff landed in AOSP, though; for vendors that can be
> convinced to care about backporting these things, it's great to have a
> place to point to for them to get your work! And it's fine not to
> contribute to upstream, since luckily there will be some people who
> can. Upstream will continue to work on security defenses, but at the
> very least, it'd be nice if people would be constructive in their
> criticisms. We've gone over a decade with grsecurity's frequently
> toxic rhetoric only alienating people instead of productively working
> together to reach what should be the common goal of security work:
> defending users.
Yeah, we have different battle to fight with. I truely hope KSPP can
be an alternative mitigation solution in the future because the users
could get benefit from open competitions. I think PaX team and Spender
never fear to compete with any other defense solution.

GNU powered it...
GPL protect it...
God blessing it...


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