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Date: Fri, 17 Sep 2021 17:46:26 -0700
From: Paul Eggert <>
To: Konstantin Belousov <>
Cc:, Keith Packard <>,
 Alan Coopersmith <>
Subject: Re: freezero() and freezeroall()

On 9/17/21 4:36 PM, Konstantin Belousov wrote:
> And what does the function do if the page is co-populated by unrelated
> allocations?

explicit_bzero is supposed to be used in that case, according to the 
OpenBSD doc. (But see below.)

> BTW is clearing done by userspace or kernel?  Does kernel ensure that
> possible copies anywhere, e.g. in swap, are obliterated as well?

When explicit_bzero is not used, munmap is supposed to be used. I don't 
know whether munmap obliterates swap.

Looking at the current OpenBSD source code[1], it appears they're doing 
best effort. Unless I'm missing something, in some cases freezero 
appears to call memset instead of explicit_bzero. Even if that were 
changed, on real systems I expect the data are too often still lying 
around somewhere in the hardware. I suppose the idea is that it's better 
than nothing.

OpenBSD freezero is tightly linked to reallocarray, in that reallocarray 
is documented to clear any old object with explicit_bzero before 
returning the new object's address. If this is the idea, it makes little 
sense to add freezero without also modifying reallocarray. 
Unfortunately, a reasonable amount of GNU code is written assuming that 
reallocarray is not significantly slower than realloc so this approach 
sounds dubious.

With all this in mind it would be better to add a better API, as Alan 
proposed, than to standardize on freezero. The name 'freezeroall' is a 
bit hard to read, though - how about calling it 'clearfree' instead? 
("clear" before "free" because that's the order it's conceptually done.)

One minor QoI detail: OpenBSD freezero is slower than 'free' for other 
reasons, as it does more checking of internal data structures. I guess 
the idea is that freezero is gonna be slow anyway, so why not?


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