[RFC PATCH 0/3] arm64: Implement reliable stack trace

Mark Rutland mark.rutland at arm.com
Wed Feb 3 11:53:02 EST 2021

On Tue, Feb 02, 2021 at 05:32:32PM -0600, Madhavan T. Venkataraman wrote:
> On 2/2/21 4:05 AM, Mark Rutland wrote:
> > I think that practically speaking it's necessary to track all potential
> > paths through functions that may alter the shadow stack or the shadow
> > stack pointer to ensure that the manipulation is well-balanced and that
> > the shadow stack pointer isn't corrupted.
> > 
> > Practically speaking, this requires decoding a significant number of
> > instructions, and tracing through all potential paths a function may
> > take.
> I thought about it some more since you don't like the shadow stack
> that much.

Just to be clear, what I was trying to get across was:

* Whatever we do, we want to verify at compile time that the kernel
  binary matches our expecations, and practically speaking this almost
  certainly means using objtool.

* The analysis that objtool will have to do is not made significantly
  simpler through the use of a shadow stack, as it still needs to track
  all paths though a function, etc.

I'm not averse to using a shadow stack (and clang's SCS is a useful
security feature), I just don't think that it helps much with
compile-time verification, and I don't see a strong reason to mandate it
for livepatching.


> The goal is - even if a function modifies fp and/or does not restore sp to its
> correct value at the end, the prolog and epilog should manage it so that everything
> works. To do this, the current frame pointer address is stored in fp as well as cur_fp.
> Even if fp is modified, cur_fp will still point to the correct frame address.
> Prolog
> =======
> The original prolog is:
> - Push fp and return address on the stack
> - fp = sp
> The new prolog is:
> - Save cur_fp on the stack
> - Push fp, return address on the stack
> - fp = sp
> - cur_fp = fp
> Epilog
> ======
> The original epilog is:
> - Pop fp and return address
> The new epilog is:
> - sp = cur_fp
> - Pop fp and return address
> - Restore cur_fp from the stack
> I think this is pretty simple.

I'm afraid I don't understand the problem you're trying to solve here.
The epilog you propose is also unsound in the face of asynchronous
exceptions, so I suspect you haven't thought as hard about this as you
need to.

Even if the compiler uses a different prologue/epilogue sequence, we
still need to verify that the rest of the function does nothing to
undermine that.

I think this is merely different rather than simpler, and regardless
this would be an invasive change to compilers.

> Unwinder
> ========
> The unwinder will start the stack walk from cur_fp instead of fp. At each frame,
> it will use the saved cur_fp instead of the saved fp. 
> Also, at each step, it can know if fp was actually changed by the function in
> the frame. The unwinder can optionally issue warnings.

So this is just about aditional robustness?

I'm happy to use a shadow stack for /additional/ robustness, I just
don't think a shadow stack alone solves all the other issues that we
need compile time verification for, nor does it solve cases where we
might want metadata generated at compile time.

> Compiler issue
> ===============
> This solution is geared towards the kernel only. It assumes that the stack
> has a fixed size and alignment so the bottom of the stack can be reached
> from the current sp.
> So, the compiler has to support two prologs and epilogs, one pair for apps
> and one pair for the kernel.
> Since this is just a tiny bit of code, I don't think this is a problem.

I suspect it's more compilated than that. Configuration differences like
this can easily double the necessary testing, and are liable to becomer
a maintenance burden, so I don't expect compiler folk are likely to want
to support this unless necessary.

At the moment, I don't think that this solves a real problem, and I
don't think that we need to change this.

In future, we might want to agree some constraints with toolchain folk
if we have specific concerns or pain points, but I don't think we've
actually enumerated those and why we can't solve them through over


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