[PATCH v18 0/9] mm: introduce memfd_secret system call to create "secret" memory areas

David Hildenbrand david at redhat.com
Thu May 6 18:24:43 BST 2021

>>>> Is this intended to protect keys/etc after the attacker has
>>>> gained the ability to run arbitrary kernel-mode code?  If so,
>>>> that seems optimistic, doesn't it?
>>> Not exactly: there are many types of kernel attack, but mostly the
>>> attacker either manages to effect a privilege escalation to root or
>>> gets the ability to run a ROP gadget.  The object of this code is
>>> to be completely secure against root trying to extract the secret
>>> (some what similar to the lockdown idea), thus defeating privilege
>>> escalation and to provide "sufficient" protection against ROP
>>> gadget.
>> What stops "root" from mapping /dev/mem and reading that memory?
> /dev/mem uses the direct map for the copy at least for read/write, so
> it gets a fault in the same way root trying to use ptrace does.  I
> think we've protected mmap, but Mike would know that better than I.

I'm more concerned about the mmap case -> remap_pfn_range(). Anybody 
going via the VMA shouldn't see the struct page, at least when 
vma_normal_page() is properly used; so you cannot detect secretmem
memory mapped via /dev/mem reliably. At least that's my theory :)


>> Also, there is a way to still read that memory when root by
>> 1. Having kdump active (which would often be the case, but maybe not
>> to dump user pages )
>> 2. Triggering a kernel crash (easy via proc as root)
>> 3. Waiting for the reboot after kump() created the dump and then
>> reading the content from disk.
> Anything that can leave physical memory intact but boot to a kernel
> where the missing direct map entry is restored could theoretically
> extract the secret.  However, it's not exactly going to be a stealthy
> extraction ...
>> Or, as an attacker, load a custom kexec() kernel and read memory
>> from the new environment. Of course, the latter two are advanced
>> mechanisms, but they are possible when root. We might be able to
>> mitigate, for example, by zeroing out secretmem pages before booting
>> into the kexec kernel, if we care :)
> I think we could handle it by marking the region, yes, and a zero on
> shutdown might be useful ... it would prevent all warm reboot type
> attacks.

Right. But I guess when you're actually root, you can just write a 
kernel module to extract the information you need (unless we have signed 
modules, so it could be harder/impossible).


David / dhildenb

More information about the linux-riscv mailing list