Follow @Openwall on Twitter for new release announcements and other news
[<prev] [next>] [thread-next>] [day] [month] [year] [list]
Date: Wed, 23 Sep 2020 10:38:54 -0700
From: Kristen Carlson Accardi <>
	Kristen Carlson Accardi <>
Subject: [PATCH v5 00/10] Function Granular KASLR

Function Granular Kernel Address Space Layout Randomization (fgkaslr)

This patch set is an implementation of finer grained kernel address space
randomization. It rearranges your kernel code at load time 
on a per-function level granularity, with only around a second added to
boot time.

Changes in v5:
* fixed a bug in the code which increases boot heap size for
  CONFIG_FG_KASLR which prevented the boot heap from being increased
  for CONFIG_FG_KASLR when using bzip2 compression. Thanks to Andy Lavr
  for finding the problem and identifying the solution.
* changed the adjustment of the orc_unwind_ip table at boot time to
  disregard relocs associated with this table, and instead inspect the
  entries separately. Relocs are not able to be used since they are
  no longer correct once the table is resorted at buildtime.
* changed how orc_unwind_ip addresses in randomized sections are identified
  to include the byte immediately after the end of the section.
* updated module code to use kvmalloc/kvfree based on suggestions from
  Evgenii Shatokhin <>.
* changed kernel commandline to disable fgkaslr to simply "nofgkaslr" to
  match the nokaslr option. fgkaslr="X" can be added at a later date
  if it is needed.
* Added a patch to force livepatch to require symbols to be unique if
  using while fgkaslr either for core or modules.

Changes in v4:
* dropped the patch to split out change to STATIC definition in
  x86/boot/compressed/misc.c and replaced with a patch authored
  by Kees Cook to avoid the duplicate malloc definitions
* Added a section to Documentation/admin-guide/kernel-parameters.txt
  to document the fgkaslr boot option.
* redesigned the patch to hide the new layout when reading
  /proc/kallsyms. The previous implementation utilized a dynamically
  allocated linked list to display the kernel and module symbols
  in alphabetical order. The new implementation uses a randomly
  shuffled index array to display the kernel and module symbols
  in a random order.

Changes in v3:
* Makefile changes to accommodate CONFIG_LD_DEAD_CODE_DATA_ELIMINATION
* removal of extraneous ALIGN_PAGE from _etext changes
* changed variable names in x86/tools/relocs to be less confusing
* split out change to STATIC definition in x86/boot/compressed/misc.c
* Updates to Documentation to make it more clear what is preserved in .text
* much more detailed commit message for function granular KASLR patch
* minor tweaks and changes that make for more readable code
* this cover letter updated slightly to add additional details

Changes in v2:
* Fix to address i386 build failure
* Allow module reordering patch to be configured separately so that
  arm (or other non-x86_64 arches) can take advantage of module function
  reordering. This support has not be tested by me, but smoke tested by
  Ard Biesheuvel <> on arm.
* Fix build issue when building on arm as reported by
  Ard Biesheuvel <> 

Patches to objtool are included because they are dependencies for this
patchset, however they have been submitted by their maintainer separately.

KASLR was merged into the kernel with the objective of increasing the
difficulty of code reuse attacks. Code reuse attacks reused existing code
snippets to get around existing memory protections. They exploit software bugs
which expose addresses of useful code snippets to control the flow of
execution for their own nefarious purposes. KASLR moves the entire kernel
code text as a unit at boot time in order to make addresses less predictable.
The order of the code within the segment is unchanged - only the base address
is shifted. There are a few shortcomings to this algorithm.

1. Low Entropy - there are only so many locations the kernel can fit in. This
   means an attacker could guess without too much trouble.
2. Knowledge of a single address can reveal the offset of the base address,
   exposing all other locations for a published/known kernel image.
3. Info leaks abound.

Finer grained ASLR has been proposed as a way to make ASLR more resistant
to info leaks. It is not a new concept at all, and there are many variations
possible. Function reordering is an implementation of finer grained ASLR
which randomizes the layout of an address space on a function level
granularity. We use the term "fgkaslr" in this document to refer to the
technique of function reordering when used with KASLR, as well as finer grained
KASLR in general.

Proposed Improvement
This patch set proposes adding function reordering on top of the existing
KASLR base address randomization. The over-arching objective is incremental
improvement over what we already have. It is designed to work in combination
with the existing solution. The implementation is really pretty simple, and
there are 2 main area where changes occur:

* Build time

GCC has had an option to place functions into individual .text sections for
many years now. This option can be used to implement function reordering at
load time. The final compiled vmlinux retains all the section headers, which
can be used to help find the address ranges of each function. Using this
information and an expanded table of relocation addresses, individual text
sections can be suffled immediately after decompression. Some data tables
inside the kernel that have assumptions about order require re-sorting
after being updated when applying relocations. In order to modify these tables,
a few key symbols are excluded from the objcopy symbol stripping process for
use after shuffling the text segments.

Some highlights from the build time changes to look for:

The top level kernel Makefile was modified to add the gcc flag if it
is supported. Currently, I am applying this flag to everything it is
possible to randomize. Anything that is written in C and not present in a
special input section is randomized. The final binary segment 0 retains a
consolidated .text section, as well as all the individual .text.* sections.
Future work could turn off this flags for selected files or even entire
subsystems, although obviously at the cost of security.

The relocs tool is updated to add relative relocations. This information
previously wasn't included because it wasn't necessary when moving the
entire .text segment as a unit. 

A new file was created to contain a list of symbols that objcopy should
keep. We use those symbols at load time as described below.

* Load time

The boot kernel was modified to parse the vmlinux elf file after
decompression to check for our interesting symbols that we kept, and to
look for any .text.* sections to randomize. The consolidated .text section
is skipped and not moved. The sections are shuffled randomly, and copied
into memory following the .text section in a new random order. The existing
code which updated relocation addresses was modified to account for
not just a fixed delta from the load address, but the offset that the function
section was moved to. This requires inspection of each address to see if
it was impacted by a randomization. We use a bsearch to make this less
horrible on performance. Any tables that need to be modified with new
addresses or resorted are updated using the symbol addresses parsed from the
elf symbol table.

In order to hide our new layout, symbols reported through /proc/kallsyms
will be displayed in a random order.

Security Considerations
The objective of this patch set is to improve a technology that is already
merged into the kernel (KASLR). This code will not prevent all attacks,
but should instead be considered as one of several tools that can be used.
In particular, this code is meant to make KASLR more effective in the presence
of info leaks.

How much entropy we are adding to the existing entropy of standard KASLR will
depend on a few variables. Firstly and most obviously, the number of functions
that are randomized matters. This implementation keeps the existing .text
section for code that cannot be randomized - for example, because it was
assembly code. The less sections to randomize, the less entropy. In addition,
due to alignment (16 bytes for x86_64), the number of bits in a address that
the attacker needs to guess is reduced, as the lower bits are identical.

Performance Impact
There are two areas where function reordering can impact performance: boot
time latency, and run time performance.

* Boot time latency
This implementation of finer grained KASLR impacts the boot time of the kernel
in several places. It requires additional parsing of the kernel ELF file to
obtain the section headers of the sections to be randomized. It calls the
random number generator for each section to be randomized to determine that
section's new memory location. It copies the decompressed kernel into a new
area of memory to avoid corruption when laying out the newly randomized
sections. It increases the number of relocations the kernel has to perform at
boot time vs. standard KASLR, and it also requires a lookup on each address
that needs to be relocated to see if it was in a randomized section and needs
to be adjusted by a new offset. Finally, it re-sorts a few data tables that
are required to be sorted by address.

Booting a test VM on a modern, well appointed system showed an increase in
latency of approximately 1 second.

* Run time
The performance impact at run-time of function reordering varies by workload.
Using kcbench, a kernel compilation benchmark, the performance of a kernel
build with finer grained KASLR was about 1% slower than a kernel with standard
KASLR. Analysis with perf showed a slightly higher percentage of 
L1-icache-load-misses. Other workloads were examined as well, with varied
results. Some workloads performed significantly worse under FGKASLR, while
others stayed the same or were mysteriously better. In general, it will
depend on the code flow whether or not finer grained KASLR will impact
your workload, and how the underlying code was designed. Because the layout
changes per boot, each time a system is rebooted the performance of a workload
may change.

Future work could identify hot areas that may not be randomized and either
leave them in the .text section or group them together into a single section
that may be randomized. If grouping things together helps, one other thing to
consider is that if we could identify text blobs that should be grouped together
to benefit a particular code flow, it could be interesting to explore
whether this security feature could be also be used as a performance
feature if you are interested in optimizing your kernel layout for a
particular workload at boot time. Optimizing function layout for a particular
workload has been researched and proven effective - for more information
read the Facebook paper "Optimizing Function Placement for Large-Scale
Data-Center Applications" (see references section below).

Image Size
Adding additional section headers as a result of compiling with
-ffunction-sections will increase the size of the vmlinux ELF file.
With a standard distro config, the resulting vmlinux was increased by
about 3%. The compressed image is also increased due to the header files,
as well as the extra relocations that must be added. You can expect fgkaslr
to increase the size of the compressed image by about 15%.

Memory Usage
fgkaslr increases the amount of heap that is required at boot time,
although this extra memory is released when the kernel has finished
decompression. As a result, it may not be appropriate to use this feature on
systems without much memory.

To enable fine grained KASLR, you need to have the following config options
set (including all the ones you would use to build normal KASLR)


In addition, fgkaslr is only supported for the X86_64 architecture.

Modules are randomized similarly to the rest of the kernel by shuffling
the sections at load time prior to moving them into memory. The module must
also have been build with the -ffunction-sections compiler option.

Although fgkaslr for the kernel is only supported for the X86_64 architecture,
it is possible to use fgkaslr with modules on other architectures. To enable
this feature, select


This option is selected automatically for X86_64 when CONFIG_FG_KASLR is set.

Disabling normal KASLR using the nokaslr command line option also disables
fgkaslr. It is also possible to disable fgkaslr separately by booting with
nofgkaslr on the commandline.

There are a lot of academic papers which explore finer grained ASLR.
This paper in particular contributed the most to my implementation design
as well as my overall understanding of the problem space:

Selfrando: Securing the Tor Browser against De-anonymization Exploits,
M. Conti, S. Crane, T. Frassetto, et al.

For more information on how function layout impacts performance, see:

Optimizing Function Placement for Large-Scale Data-Center Applications,
G. Ottoni, B. Maher
Kees Cook (2):
  x86/boot: Allow a "silent" kaslr random byte fetch
  x86/boot/compressed: Avoid duplicate malloc() implementations

Kristen Carlson Accardi (8):
  x86: tools/relocs: Support >64K section headers
  x86: Makefile: Add build and config option for CONFIG_FG_KASLR
  x86: Make sure _etext includes function sections
  x86/tools: Add relative relocs for randomized functions
  x86: Add support for function granular KASLR
  kallsyms: Hide layout
  module: Reorder functions
  livepatch: only match unique symbols when using fgkaslr

 .../admin-guide/kernel-parameters.txt         |   6 +
 Documentation/security/fgkaslr.rst            | 172 ++++
 Documentation/security/index.rst              |   1 +
 Makefile                                      |   6 +-
 arch/x86/Kconfig                              |   4 +
 arch/x86/Makefile                             |   9 +
 arch/x86/boot/compressed/Makefile             |   9 +-
 arch/x86/boot/compressed/fgkaslr.c            | 898 ++++++++++++++++++
 arch/x86/boot/compressed/kaslr.c              |   4 -
 arch/x86/boot/compressed/misc.c               | 157 ++-
 arch/x86/boot/compressed/misc.h               |  30 +
 arch/x86/boot/compressed/utils.c              |  11 +
 arch/x86/boot/compressed/vmlinux.symbols      |  17 +
 arch/x86/include/asm/boot.h                   |  17 +-
 arch/x86/kernel/                 |  17 +-
 arch/x86/lib/kaslr.c                          |  18 +-
 arch/x86/tools/relocs.c                       | 143 ++-
 arch/x86/tools/relocs.h                       |   4 +-
 arch/x86/tools/relocs_common.c                |  15 +-
 include/asm-generic/             |  18 +-
 include/linux/decompress/mm.h                 |  12 +-
 include/uapi/linux/elf.h                      |   1 +
 init/Kconfig                                  |  26 +
 kernel/kallsyms.c                             | 163 +++-
 kernel/livepatch/core.c                       |  11 +
 kernel/module.c                               |  85 +-
 26 files changed, 1768 insertions(+), 86 deletions(-)
 create mode 100644 Documentation/security/fgkaslr.rst
 create mode 100644 arch/x86/boot/compressed/fgkaslr.c
 create mode 100644 arch/x86/boot/compressed/utils.c
 create mode 100644 arch/x86/boot/compressed/vmlinux.symbols

base-commit: ba4f184e126b751d1bffad5897f263108befc780

Powered by blists - more mailing lists

Confused about mailing lists and their use? Read about mailing lists on Wikipedia and check out these guidelines on proper formatting of your messages.