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Date: Thu, 26 Nov 2015 11:42:29 +0100
From: Ingo Molnar <>
To: PaX Team <>
	Mathias Krause <>,
	"" <>,
	Kees Cook <>,
	Andy Lutomirski <>,
	Ingo Molnar <>,
	Thomas Gleixner <>,
	"H. Peter Anvin" <>, x86-ml <>,
	Arnd Bergmann <>,
	Michael Ellerman <>,,
	Emese Revfy <>
Subject: Re: [PATCH 0/2] introduce post-init read-only

* PaX Team <> wrote:

> On 26 Nov 2015 at 9:54, Ingo Molnar wrote:
> > * PaX Team <> wrote:
> > 
> > > actually the kernel could silently recover from this given how the page fault 
> > > handler could easily determine that the fault address fell into the 
> > > data..read_only section and just silently undo the read-only property, log the 
> > > event to dmesg and retry the faulting access.
> > 
> > So a safer method would be to decode the faulting instruction, to skip it by 
> > fixing up the return RIP and to log the event. It would be mostly equivalent 
> > to trying to write to ROM (which get ignored as well), so it's a recoverable 
> > (and debuggable) event.
> if by skipping you mean ignoring the write attempt then it's not a good idea as 
> it has a good chance to cause unexpected behaviour down the line.
> e.g., imagine that the write was to a function pointer (even an entire ops 
> structure) or a boolean that controls some important feature for after-init 
> code. ignoring/dropping such writes could cause all kinds of logic bugs (if not 
> worse).

Well, the typical case is that it's a logic bug to _do_ the write: the structure 
was marked readonly for a reason but some init code re-runs during suspend or so.

But yes, logic bugs might trigger - but that is true in the opposite case as well, 
if we do the write despite it being marked readonly:

> my somewhat related war story is that i once tried to constify machine_ops (both 
> the struct and the variable of the same name) directly and just forced the 
> writes in kvm/xen/etc via type casts. now i knew it was all undefined behaviour 
> but i didn't expect gcc to take advantage of it but it did (const propagated the 
> *initial* fptr values into the indirect calls by turning them into direct calls) 
> and which in turn prevented proper reboots for guests (an event which obviously 
> happens much later after init/boot to the great puzzlement of end users and 
> myself).
> misusing __read_only and ignoring write attempts would effectively produce the 
> same misbehaviour as above so i strongly advise against it.

No, the difference to the GCC related aliasing bug is that with my technique the 
kernel would immediately produce a very visible kernel warning, which is a very 
clear sign that is wrong - and with a very clear backtrace in the warning that 
points right to the problematic code - which signature shows us (and users) what 
is wrong.

So your example is not comparable at all.

Plus the truly paranoid might panic/halt the system on such warnings, so for 
highly secure systems there's a way to not even allow the possibility of logic 
bugs. (at the cost of stopping the system when a bug triggers.)



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