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Date: Tue, 4 Dec 2018 20:02:03 +0000
From: "Edgecombe, Rick P" <>
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 Anil S" <>,
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	<>, "Hansen, Dave" <>
Subject: Re: [PATCH 1/2] vmalloc: New flag for flush before releasing pages

On Tue, 2018-12-04 at 16:03 +0000, Will Deacon wrote:
> On Mon, Dec 03, 2018 at 05:43:11PM -0800, Nadav Amit wrote:
> > > On Nov 27, 2018, at 4:07 PM, Rick Edgecombe <>
> > > wrote:
> > > 
> > > Since vfree will lazily flush the TLB, but not lazily free the underlying
> > > pages,
> > > it often leaves stale TLB entries to freed pages that could get re-used.
> > > This is
> > > undesirable for cases where the memory being freed has special permissions
> > > such
> > > as executable.
> > 
> > So I am trying to finish my patch-set for preventing transient W+X mappings
> > from taking space, by handling kprobes & ftrace that I missed (thanks again
> > for
> > pointing it out).
> > 
> > But all of the sudden, I don’t understand why we have the problem that this
> > (your) patch-set deals with at all. We already change the mappings to make
> > the memory writable before freeing the memory, so why can’t we make it
> > non-executable at the same time? Actually, why do we make the module memory,
> > including its data executable before freeing it???
> Yeah, this is really confusing, but I have a suspicion it's a combination
> of the various different configurations and hysterical raisins. We can't
> rely on module_alloc() allocating from the vmalloc area (see nios2) nor
> can we rely on disable_ro_nx() being available at build time.
> If we *could* rely on module allocations always using vmalloc(), then
> we could pass in Rick's new flag and drop disable_ro_nx() altogether
> afaict -- who cares about the memory attributes of a mapping that's about
> to disappear anyway?
> Is it just nios2 that does something different?
> Will

Yea it is really intertwined. I think for x86, set_memory_nx everywhere would
solve it as well, in fact that was what I first thought the solution should be
until this was suggested. It's interesting that from the other thread Masami
Hiramatsu referenced, set_memory_nx was suggested last year and would have
inadvertently blocked this on x86. But, on the other architectures I have since
learned it is a bit different.

It looks like actually most arch's don't re-define set_memory_*, and so all of
the frob_* functions are actually just noops. In which case allocating RWX is
needed to make it work at all, because that is what the allocation is going to
stay at. So in these archs, set_memory_nx won't solve it because it will do

On x86 I think you cannot get rid of disable_ro_nx fully because there is the
changing of the permissions on the directmap as well. You don't want some other
caller getting a page that was left RO when freed and then trying to write to
it, if I understand this.

The other reasoning was that calling set_memory_nx isn't doing what we are
actually trying to do which is prevent the pages from getting released too

A more clear solution for all of this might involve refactoring some of the
set_memory_ de-allocation logic out into __weak functions in either modules or
vmalloc. As Jessica points out in the other thread though, modules does a lot
more stuff there than the other module_alloc callers. I think it may take some
thought to centralize AND make it optimal for every module_alloc/vmalloc_exec
user and arch.

But for now with the change in vmalloc, we can block the executable mapping
freed page re-use issue in a cross platform way.



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