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Date: Mon, 6 Aug 2018 14:55:31 +0100
From: Robin Murphy <>
To: Ard Biesheuvel <>,
 Julien Thierry <>
Subject: Re: [RFC/PoC PATCH 0/3] arm64: basic ROP mitigation

On 02/08/18 14:21, Ard Biesheuvel wrote:
> This is a proof of concept I cooked up, primarily to trigger a discussion
> about whether there is a point to doing anything like this, and if there
> is, what the pitfalls are. Also, while I am not aware of any similar
> implementations, the idea is so simple that I would be surprised if nobody
> else thought of the same thing way before I did.

So, "TTBR0 PAN: Pointer Auth edition"? :P

> The idea is that we can significantly limit the kernel's attack surface
> for ROP based attacks by clearing the stack pointer's sign bit before
> returning from a function, and setting it again right after proceeding
> from the [expected] return address. This should make it much more difficult
> to return to arbitrary gadgets, given that they rely on being chained to
> the next via a return address popped off the stack, and this is difficult
> when the stack pointer is invalid.
> Of course, 4 additional instructions per function return is not exactly
> for free, but they are just movs and adds, and leaf functions are
> disregarded unless they allocate a stack frame (this comes for free
> because simple_return insns are disregarded by the plugin)
> Please shoot, preferably with better ideas ...

Actually, on the subject of PAN, shouldn't this at least have a very 
hard dependency on that? AFAICS without PAN clearing bit 55 of SP is 
effectively giving userspace direct control of the kernel stack (thanks 
to TBI). Ouch.

I wonder if there's a little  more mileage in using "{add,sub} sp, sp, 
#1" sequences to rely on stack alignment exceptions instead, with the 
added bonus that that's about as low as the instruction-level overhead 
can get.


> Ard Biesheuvel (3):
>    arm64: use wrapper macro for bl/blx instructions from asm code
>    gcc: plugins: add ROP shield plugin for arm64
>    arm64: enable ROP protection by clearing SP bit #55 across function
>      returns
>   arch/Kconfig                                  |   4 +
>   arch/arm64/Kconfig                            |  10 ++
>   arch/arm64/include/asm/assembler.h            |  21 +++-
>   arch/arm64/kernel/entry-ftrace.S              |   6 +-
>   arch/arm64/kernel/entry.S                     | 104 +++++++++-------
>   arch/arm64/kernel/head.S                      |   4 +-
>   arch/arm64/kernel/probes/kprobes_trampoline.S |   2 +-
>   arch/arm64/kernel/sleep.S                     |   6 +-
>   drivers/firmware/efi/libstub/Makefile         |   3 +-
>   scripts/Makefile.gcc-plugins                  |   7 ++
>   scripts/gcc-plugins/arm64_rop_shield_plugin.c | 116 ++++++++++++++++++
>   11 files changed, 228 insertions(+), 55 deletions(-)
>   create mode 100644 scripts/gcc-plugins/arm64_rop_shield_plugin.c

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