[PATCH 20/22] arm64: mte: Allow user control of the excluded tags via prctl()

Catalin Marinas catalin.marinas at arm.com
Mon Jun 22 13:17:34 EDT 2020

Hi Peter,

Revisiting the gcr_excl vs gcr_incl decision, so reviving an old thread.

On Mon, Dec 16, 2019 at 09:30:36AM -0800, Peter Collingbourne wrote:
> On Mon, Dec 16, 2019 at 6:20 AM Kevin Brodsky <kevin.brodsky at arm.com> wrote:
> > In this patch, the default exclusion mask remains 0 (i.e. all tags can be generated).
> > After some more discussions, Branislav and I think that it would be better to start
> > with the reverse, i.e. all tags but 0 excluded (mask = 0xfe or 0xff).
> >
> > This should simplify the MTE setup in the early C runtime quite a bit. Indeed, if all
> > tags can be generated, doing any heap or stack tagging before the
> > PR_SET_TAGGED_ADDR_CTRL prctl() is issued can cause problems, notably because tagged
> > addresses could end up being passed to syscalls. Conversely, if IRG and ADDG never
> > set the top byte by default, then tagging operations should be no-ops until the
> > prctl() is issued. This would be particularly useful given that it may not be
> > straightforward for the C runtime to issue the prctl() before doing anything else.
> >
> > Additionally, since the default tag checking mode is PR_MTE_TCF_NONE, it would make
> > perfect sense not to generate tags by default.
> This would indeed allow the early C runtime startup code to pass
> tagged addresses to syscalls,

I guess you meant that early C runtime code won't get tagged stack
addresses, hence they can be passed to syscalls. Prior to the prctl(),
the kernel doesn't accept tagged addresses anyway.

> but I don't think it would entirely free
> the code from the burden of worrying about stack tagging. Either way,
> any stack frames that are active at the point when the prctl() is
> issued would need to be compiled without stack tagging, because
> otherwise those stack frames may use ADDG to rematerialize a stack
> object address, which may produce a different address post-prctl.

If you want to guarantee that ADDG always returns tag 0, I guess that's
only possible with a default exclude mask of 0xffff (or if you are
careful enough with the start tag and offset passed).

> Setting the exclude mask to 0xffff would at least make it more likely
> for this problem to be detected, though.

I thought it would be detected if we didn't have a 0xffff default
exclude mask. With only tag 0 generated, any such problem could be

> If we change the default in this way, maybe it would be worth
> considering flipping the meaning of the tag mask and have it be a mask
> of tags to allow. That would be consistent with the existing behaviour
> where userspace sets bits in tagged_addr_ctrl in order to enable
> tagging features.

The first question is whether the C runtime requires a default
GCR_EL1.Excl mask of 0xffff (or 0xfffe) so that IRG, ADDG, SUBG always
generate tag 0. If the runtime is fine with a default exclude mask of 0,
I'm tempted to go back to an exclude mask for prctl().

(to me it feels more natural to use an exclude mask as it matches the
ARM ARM definition but maybe I stare too much at the hardware specs ;))


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