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Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2018 16:09:23 +0300
From: Alexander Popov <>
To: Kees Cook <>
Cc:, PaX Team <>,
 Brad Spengler <>, Ingo Molnar <>,
 Andy Lutomirski <>, Tycho Andersen <>,
 Laura Abbott <>, Mark Rutland <>,
 Ard Biesheuvel <>, Borislav Petkov <>,
 Thomas Gleixner <>, "H . Peter Anvin" <>,
 Peter Zijlstra <>, "Dmitry V . Levin"
 <>, X86 ML <>
Subject: Re: [PATCH RFC v7 0/6] Introduce the STACKLEAK feature and a test for

Hello Kees,

On 17.01.2018 14:37, Alexander Popov wrote:
> On 15.01.2018 22:59, Kees Cook wrote:
>> On Fri, Jan 12, 2018 at 6:19 AM, Alexander Popov <> wrote:
>>> This is the 7th version of the patch series introducing STACKLEAK to the
>>> mainline kernel. STACKLEAK is a security feature developed by Grsecurity/PaX
>>> (kudos to them), which:
>>>  - reduces the information that can be revealed through kernel stack leak bugs;
>>>  - blocks some uninitialized stack variable attacks (e.g. CVE-2010-2963);
>>>  - introduces some runtime checks for kernel stack overflow detection.
>> I think this is really looking good. I had some thoughts while reading
>> through the patches:
>> There are really three features in this series, and it might make
>> sense to separate them a bit more clearly (at least with CONFIG
>> choices):
>> 1) stack clearing (with depth searching)
>> 2) runtime stack depth tracking (making 1 much more efficient)
>> 3) alloca checking (an additional feature, not strictly part of
>> clearing, but needs the same plugin infrastructure)
>> It seems like it should be possible to get 1 without 2 and 3 (both of
>> which happen in the gcc plugin), and might be good to separate for
>> builds that don't have gcc plugins.
>> Once compilers are doing alloca checking (or all VLAs are removed from
>> the kernel), it'd be nice to be able to avoid the redundancy of 3.
> Agree with your point. I'll make this separation in the next version.

I have more thoughts about this separation.

Splitting (1) from (2)

It makes the stack erasing not only slow but also unreliable. For example, an
attacker can craft some STACKLEAK_POISON values on the thread stack to deceive
the poison search during the erasing.

Of course, I can increase STACKLEAK_POISON_CHECK_DEPTH or change the default
value of lowest_stack. It will make the stack erasing even slower, but will not
give guarantees.

So I don't think that (1) without (2) is actually a good feature. I would
propose to refrain from separating the stack erasing and the lowest_stack tracking.

Splitting (2) and (3)

The STACKLEAK gcc plugin needs to search for alloca anyway (for the correct
lowest_stack tracking). But I can introduce the "no-check-alloca" plugin
parameter for disabling the check_alloca() call insertion.

Is it worth providing something like CONFIG_GCC_PLUGIN_STACKLEAK_NO_CHECK_ALLOCA
in the Kconfig?


Best regards,

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