ia64 ptrace: off-by-one yak

Gentoo has one alive ia64 machine: HP rx3600 nicknamed guppy. It’s an old box, and yet it’s specs are not too different from my 10 years old desktop: 32 GB RAM, 2 cores x 2 hyperthreads each.

Thus it’s suitable for on-host debugging of all sorts up to building and running gcc testsuites or remote X client apps like pre-rust version of firefox.

kernel upgrade

There were a few major upstream kernel changes that made me a bit nervous to update kernel on that machine from 4.9:

Fast forward a few years and we were running 4.9 kernel in 2021. Whoops. No fancy new statx() syscalls or modern container whistles.

Also John Paul Adrian started asking question if Gentoo were seeing NUMA-related boot failures. I decided to upgrade a kernel to one of recent releases.

First I attempted to upgrade straight to then most recent 5.10 (it took me a while to write about it). Built 5.10 and booted it without any problems (grub++ for ease of messing with root= over BMC). I rebuilt a few hevyweight packages to check basic ability to roll back if needed. No problems! Phew! End of the story!

Or not.

the quest of strace

A few days after kernel upgrade Dmitry (strace upstream maintainer) reported a bug uncovered by strace testsuite: https://bugs.gentoo.org/769614. Many tests started failing for invalid syscall parameters as seen by ptrace().

Dmitry noticed that sometimes syscall parameters were off-by-one:

Looks like a trivial bug, right?

Quiz: pause here for a minute and try to guess the nature of this bug. It’s ok (and encouraged!) not to have any prior knowledge of kernels, ptrace() facility or ia64 architecture.

What kind of kernel change could trigger failures and what was the real cause of the observed discrepancy? A few distractors to chose for you:

the clues

At first I thought it to be a simpler form of alpha’s off-by-one bug where we encoded incorrect offsets to struct pt_regs.

The fun and scary thing about ia64 compared to many other arches is that it’s use of pt_regs is a lot more involved: register access requires kernel stack unwindind up to the userspace boundary. But complex unwinnding also happens to make it more uniform compared to other arches: most of the time you just use slow unwinder instead of hardcoding anything fast or special cased.

I hoped the fix would be a simpler variant of the alpha bug. With that bit of experience I hoped it would help.

The presence of unexpected syscall number in syscall parameters for ptrace() bothered me a bit. Why does it appear in such a strange place?

I skimmed through arch/ia64 kernel commits in 4.9..5.10 range related to ptrace(), found 5 of them, stared a lot at them and did not find anything suspicious.

Then I skimmed through kernel’s side of intercepting syscall parameters. I looked at a break trapping instruction handling. break instruction is similar to x86’s int: it trigger interrupt style switch to kernel context. With a caveat that everything on ia64 is special.

ptrace() handling path looked straightforward:



The complication here is to find out which of two paths is buggy: tracer path or tracee path? Tracee path looks more involved and has a higher chance to fail. I needed to poke at a real example to match expected and observed states.

I attempted to reproduce the bug on strace test suite and instantly got the same result. Yay! Sharing the machine with the reporter is very convenient :)

I started sprinkling printk() statement all over the kernel. Most interesting result was for syscall_get_set_args_cb() in arch/ia64/kernel/ptrace.c.

syscall_get_set_args_cb: krbs: 0xe000000103800ec0
syscall_get_set_args_cb: ndirty: 0x0
syscall_get_set_args_cb: count: 6
syscall_get_set_args_cb: krbs[0]: 0x40a
syscall_get_set_args_cb: krbs[1]: 0x2000000800122590
syscall_get_set_args_cb: krbs[2]: 0xbad1fed1
syscall_get_set_args_cb: krbs[3]: 0xbad2fed2
syscall_get_set_args_cb: krbs[4]: 0xbad3fed3
syscall_get_set_args_cb: krbs[5]: 0xbad4fed4
syscall_get_set_args_cb:args[0]: 0x40a
syscall_get_set_args_cb:args[1]: 0x2000000800122590
syscall_get_set_args_cb:args[2]: 0xbad1fed1
syscall_get_set_args_cb:args[3]: 0xbad2fed2
syscall_get_set_args_cb:args[4]: 0xbad3fed3
syscall_get_set_args_cb:args[5]: 0xbad4fed4

Here krbs is kernel’s register backing store in memory.

RBS memory area (pointed at ar.bsp and ar.bspstore registers) is where rotating registers are spilled on user’s request or automatically. In case of ptrace() registers are spilled on kernel’s request with flushrs instruction to make sure we can read them from memory.

Normally krbs should contain syscall arguments and maybe local function variables. args array is actual syscall args. We still see 0x402 (__NR_read) as first argument. That is probably a manifestation of the bug we trace.

Fun fact: for some reason ia64 linux syscalls start from 1024 (0x400). Perhaps lower numbers are reserved for binary compatibility with HPUX?

bisecting the kernel

I still did not get anything obvious. Why did syscall number kept getting in the list? I decided to bisect the kernel.

I rebooted back to 4.9 kernel and made sure that bug disappeared. Ok, that meant it’s not at least some parallel userspace update.

I bisected the kernel down to the following commit:

commit 201766a20e30f982ccfe36bebfad9602c3ff574a
Author: Elvira Khabirova <lineprinter@altlinux.org>
Date:   Tue Jul 16 16:29:42 2019 -0700

  ptrace: add PTRACE_GET_SYSCALL_INFO request

  PTRACE_GET_SYSCALL_INFO is a generic ptrace API that lets ptracer obtain
  details of the syscall the tracee is blocked in.

 include/linux/tracehook.h                     |   9 ++++++---
 include/uapi/linux/ptrace.h                   |  35 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
 kernel/ptrace.c                               | 101 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++-
 tools/testing/selftests/seccomp/seccomp_bpf.c |  13 +++++++++----
 4 files changed, 150 insertions(+), 8 deletions(-)

Tl;DR is: it’s a new ptrace() API to fetch traced syscall arguments.

This means it’s not strictly a regression of existing code:

That looked even more confusing! Arch-specific ptrace() code was not changed in that commit and yet some part of ptrace() is somehow broken. It meant that something was probably broken forever.

What next? I had to fall back to debugging the issue from the first principles: carefully trace syscall entry into the kernel to debug ptrace() hook being called and check how syscall arguments are extracted.

Sounds tedious but straightforward.

syscalls on ia64

So what IS the syscall ABI on ia64? I never looked into too much details besides knowing that “it looks very close to calling a C function”. Is it true though?

Actually, ia64 has not one but two close but different syscall ABIs:

break ABI is roughly the following:

Here argument layout for syscall matches argument layour for a standard C function on i64. Only syscall number is passed via unusual r15.

glibc syscall wrapper fully illustrates typical call:

      /* We are called like so:
         {out0,out1,...,out6} registers -> {NR, arg1, ..., arg6}
         Shift the register window so that {out1...out6} are available
         in {out0...out5} like the kernel syscall handler expects.  */
      alloc r2=ar.pfs,1,0,8,0
      mov r15=r32             /* syscall number */
      break __IA64_BREAK_SYSCALL
      cmp.ne p6,p0=-1,r10     /* r10 = -1 on error */
(p6)  ret
      br.cond.spnt.few __syscall_error

Not to go into too many details syscall’s proto is syscall(NR, arg1, arg2, arg3,…,arg8) and kernel handles it as sys_NR(arg1,arg2,arg3,…,arg8).

At this point I thought, “aha! off-by-one!”. But tracing through all the paths of ia64 assembly I was not able to find any problems. I had to read on stack handling in branch calls and interrupts in excellent software development intel’s manual to make sure I don’t miss any special cases. Nothing stood out.

Adding more debugging I realized break mechanism was not used at all in failing cases!

After a bit of debugging I discovered that most of glibc syscalls are actually done via epc (not break) mechanism! Gah! I never had a chance to have a closer look at it and always assumed it’s an unimplemented feature. So much for being a local expert in ia64-linux :D

epc ABI is unusual: epc instruction (Enter Privileged Code) itself does only one thing: it changes privileges of current execution from userspace to kernel level and executes next instruction right after it. This means no context switch, no traps executed. It’s almost like a nop. next few instructions after epc need to manually perform all the necessary context operations. Which might be none for simplest syscalls like getpid()!

If userspace could call epc from anywhere that would be a good way to negate any kernel protection. Thus CPU has a few restrictions: code page with epc needs to be marked as privileged for MMU so kernel could provide safe code that is not easy to turn into an arbitrry privilege escalation

In practice kernel provides such a page as part of vDSO. linux calls it GATE page. glibc finds the vDSO out and uses it as syscall implementation. Linux calls the whole ABI an fsys mechanism: https://www.kernel.org/doc/html/latest/ia64/fsys.html

The __kernel_syscall_via_epc() kernel entry in https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git/tree/arch/ia64/kernel/gate.S#n300 looks roughly like that:

  .altrp b6
   * Note: the kernel cannot assume that the first two instructions in this
   * bundle get executed.  The remaining code must be safe even if
   * they do not get executed.
  adds r17=-1024,r15       // A
  mov r10=0                // A default to successful syscall execution
  epc                      // B causes split-issue
  RSM_PSR_BE_I(r20, r22)   // M2 (5 cyc to srlz.d)

the argument layout bug

Digging through break vs. epc mechanism I found that ptrace() gets the syscall register frame in slightly different states:

for break the layout is:

- arg8
- arg7
- arg6
- ...
- arg1


- NR


- arg8
- arg7
- arg6
- ...
- arg1

- NR


Both are perfectly valid states prepared to pass arguments to callee function. And both require a br.call instruction to rotate outputs to the inputs of callee target.

In normal syscall handling case (without ptrace() attached) br.call is called for passing the control to syscall handler written in C. All arguments are present in their r32,r33,… locations.

In tracing case ptrace() is executed right before br.call. There we need to inspect syscall arguments (and possibly modify on user’s request) in outputs regs part of the active register set.

The bug was in the fact that ia64-specific ptrace() code assumed that locals are never present (as in break glibc’s wrapper case).

Once we know the problem the fix is easy: skip locals and always use output regs when inspecting syscall arguments: https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git/commit/?id=0ceb1ace4a2778e34a5414e5349712ae4dc41d85

Tl;DR of a patch: ia64 has a cr.ifs register that tells us how many inputs, local and output regusters are used in current function (register’s value is maintained by alloc and br.call / br.ret instructions). Before the change we collected both locals + outputs, after the change - only outputs.

Are we done?

the error handling bug

After the above patch applied I ran the strace test suite again. It was a lot healtier with just a few failures. This time the error was in syscall exit code (also new addition) of ptrace(PTRACE_SYSCALL_INFO_EXIT). This time sign of errno error was wrong.

Here we have a chance to see how ia64 syscalls return status back to userspace: two fixed registers are used for that:

Here is the original code to set and get the status:

static inline long syscall_get_error(struct task_struct *task,
                                     struct pt_regs *regs)
        return regs->r10 == -1 ? regs->r8:0;

static inline long syscall_get_return_value(struct task_struct *task,
                                            struct pt_regs *regs)
        return regs->r8;

static inline void syscall_set_return_value(struct task_struct *task,
                                            struct pt_regs *regs,
                                            int error, long val)
        if (error) {
                /* error < 0, but ia64 uses > 0 return value */
                regs->r8 = -error;
                regs->r10 = -1;
        } else {
                regs->r8 = val;
                regs->r10 = 0;

6 lines of code. Simple, eh? Can you spot the error?

Note how syscall_get_error() does not remove negation added in syscall_set_return_value().

The fix was obvious: https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git/commit/?id=61bf318eac2c13356f7bd1c6a05421ef504ccc8a

Surely done now?

signal handling bug

A few more test failures revealed another fun bug: signal handlers return wrong signal masks.

In this case failed tests complained about status of blocked signals in tracing rt_sigreturn() syscall.

When signal is delivered to userspace processes memory stack gets an extra struct that describes delivered signal and a bit of context (on any arch AFAIU):

struct sigframe {
    unsigned long arg0; /* signum */
    unsigned long arg1; /* siginfo pointer */
    unsigned long arg2; /* sigcontext pointer */

    void __user *handler; /* pointer to the plabel of the signal handler */
    struct siginfo info;
    struct sigcontext sc;
struct sigcontext {
    sigset_t sc_mask; /* signal mask to restore after handler returns */

Somehow sc_mask had unexpected value. Was it incorrectly populated by kernel?

ia64 has two userspace stacks:

When it’s in rt_sigreturn() syscall return that is the simplest way to look at sigframe on stack. Where stack is present as one of struct ptrace_syscall_info fields:

struct ptrace_syscall_info {
    __u8 op;        /* Type of system call stop */
    __u32 arch;     /* AUDIT_ARCH_* value; see seccomp(2) */
    __u64 instruction_pointer; /* CPU instruction pointer */
    __u64 stack_pointer;    /* CPU stack pointer */
    union {
        struct {    /* op == PTRACE_SYSCALL_INFO_ENTRY */
            __u64 nr;       /* System call number */
            __u64 args[6];  /* System call arguments */
        } entry;
        struct {    /* op == PTRACE_SYSCALL_INFO_EXIT */
            __s64 rval;     /* System call return value */
            __u8 is_error;  /* System call error flag;
                               Boolean: does rval contain
                               an error value (-ERRCODE) or
                               a nonerror return value? */
        } exit;
        struct {    /* op == PTRACE_SYSCALL_INFO_SECCOMP */
            __u64 nr;       /* System call number */
            __u64 args[6];  /* System call arguments */
            __u32 ret_data; /* SECCOMP_RET_DATA portion
                               of SECCOMP_RET_TRACE
                               return value */
        } seccomp;

So which of two stacks should be present in stack_pointer field? r12 or ar.bspstore? As a result our frame is something like that:

| ... <registers for outer functions, their cfm, predicates>
| ... <- ar.bspstore
| ... <- ar.bsp
| vvv grows down vvv
| ^^^ grows up ^^^
| ... <- r12
| <signal frame>
| <16-bytes of scratch area>
| <rest of memory stack>

Kernel had to pick one and picked wrong ar.bspstore. It contains no valid data at all. It consists of leftover values for previous register flushes and loads.

As a result ptrace() looked at a part of register backing store to look up rt_sigreturn().

Once this mismatch became clear the fix was obvious: https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git/commit/?id=7ad1e366167837daeb93d0bacb57dee820b0b898

By then strace testsuite passed all tests o/

Can we cautiosly declare the endeavour done?

plot twist

Well, strace test suite now started hanging whole box on almost every testsuite run. Looks like before it did not manage to get that far to destroy kernel’s internal state. Example crash:

Unable to handle kernel NULL pointer dereference (address 0000000000000338)
sock_filter-v-X[6171]: Oops 11012296146944 [18]
Modules linked in: usb_storage e1000 acpi_ipmi ipmi_si ipmi_devintf ipmi_msghandler rtc_efi

CPU: 0 PID: 6171 Comm: sock_filter-v-X Tainted: G    B D W         5.12.0-rc2-00003-g97669c51470e-dirty #85
Hardware name: hp server rx3600                   , BIOS 04.03                                                            04/08/2008
psr : 0000121008026010 ifs : 800000000000040b ip  : [<a00000010008d1f1>]    Tainted: G    B D W         (5.12.0-rc2-00003-g97669c51470e-dirty)
ip is at ptrace_stop+0x2b1/0x860
unat: 0000000000000000 pfs : 000000000000040b rsc : 0000000000000003
rnat: 0000000000000000 bsps: 0000000000000000 pr  : 000000255aa66a15
ldrs: 0000000000000000 ccv : 00000000fffffa92 fpsr: 0009804c0270033f
csd : 0000000000000000 ssd : 0000000000000000
b0  : a00000010008d1b0 b6  : a0000001008b1b20 b7  : a00000010000d010
f6  : 000000000000000000000 f7  : 1003e8208208208208209
f8  : 1003effffffffffffffea f9  : 1003e0000000000000033
f10 : 1003e8208208208208209 f11 : 1003effffffffffffffe6
r1  : a000000101906440 r2  : 0000000000000010 r3  : 0000000000000000
r8  : 00000000b3a0d9d1 r9  : 00000000000059d0 r10 : 00000000b3a08001
r11 : 0000000000000001 r12 : e00000010f2d5880 r13 : e00000010f2d0000
r14 : a0000001015c8304 r15 : 00000000deaf1eed r16 : e00000010f2d0000
r17 : e00000010f2d100c r18 : a000000101706e70 r19 : e00000010f2d0018
r20 : 0000000000010289 r21 : e00000010f2d0450 r22 : 0000000000000000
r23 : 0000000000000338 r24 : 000000000000b3a2 r25 : 000000000000b3a2
r26 : e00000010f2d048c r27 : 0000000000010013 r28 : fffffffffff7ffff
r29 : 0000000000120000 r30 : 0000000000000000 r31 : e00000010f2d100c

Call Trace:
 [<a000000100014d10>] show_stack+0x90/0xc0
                                sp=e00000010f2d54b0 bsp=e00000010f2d3738
 [<a000000100015410>] show_regs+0x6d0/0xa40
                                sp=e00000010f2d5680 bsp=e00000010f2d36c8
 [<a0000001000285e0>] die+0x1e0/0x3c0
                                sp=e00000010f2d56a0 bsp=e00000010f2d3688
 [<a00000010005b160>] ia64_do_page_fault+0x820/0xb80
                                sp=e00000010f2d56a0 bsp=e00000010f2d35e8
 [<a00000010000ca00>] ia64_leave_kernel+0x0/0x270
                                sp=e00000010f2d56b0 bsp=e00000010f2d35e8
 [<a00000010008d1f0>] ptrace_stop+0x2b0/0x860
                                sp=e00000010f2d5880 bsp=e00000010f2d3590
 [<a00000010008d8a0>] ptrace_do_notify+0x100/0x120
                                sp=e00000010f2d5880 bsp=e00000010f2d3560
 [<a00000010008d950>] ptrace_notify+0x90/0x1a0
                                sp=e00000010f2d58c0 bsp=e00000010f2d3540
 [<a000000100073700>] do_exit+0x1540/0x1700
                                sp=e00000010f2d58c0 bsp=e00000010f2d34c8
 [<a0000001000287b0>] die+0x3b0/0x3c0
                                sp=e00000010f2d58d0 bsp=e00000010f2d3488

It’s a NULL pointer dereference. How hard could it be to nail down and fix (or at least workaround)?

To make the box less unstable I sprintled a few if (p == NULL) { WARN_ON(1); return; } around. That allowed surviving a few strace testsuite runs in a row. Woohoo!

guppy was able to survive a few days and then crashed with even more dire and inscrutable panic.

Before digging into more details I first synced to latest kernel git to ease upstreaming things bit by bit and using Latest and Greatest code.

Surprisingly latest linux.git did not even boot.

One of failures Jens quickly fixed right after successful bisection related to task-level flag handling: https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git/commit/?id=f5f4fc4649ae542b1a25670b17aaf3cbb6187acc

Another failure was use of atomics against unaligned bool struct field in a hpsa disk driver, was also easy to fix with help of Don and others: https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git/commit/?id=02ec144292bc424a5800d45d4cb472c66e97c520

I was “lucky” to find those failures before another kernel release (or another few years of negligence).

Latest linux.git was still crashing the box.

more kernel debugging

As a next step I enabled everything I could find related to memory corruption debugging in linux kernel:

As a result I got kernel to unbootable state /o\.

I hoped boot failures were related to underlying problem I observed. One of the annoyances was that kernel silently crashed and did not print errors to BMC’s serial output. I disabled most of debugging flags back and left page_poison=on init_on_alloc=1 init_on_free=1.

This allowed catching and fixing some minor warnings like: https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git/commit/?id=f2a419cf495f95cac49ea289318b833477e1a0e2.

After a while (about a day) I started seeing the reports of arbitrarily corrupted memory:

pagealloc: memory corruption
000000004a763954: 05 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 f8 b5 b0 ff ff 0f 00 60  ...............`
00000000b3626ed1: 60 b7 b0 ff ff 0f 00 60 50 68 1c 00 08 00 00 20  `......`Ph.....
00000000f59604da: 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 70 00 00 00 00 00 00  .........p......
00000000345d9313: e3 c2 9b 14 00 00 00 00 aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa  ................
00000000d092c8b5: aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa  ................
0000000088df4d5c: aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa  ................
00000000f6e761a6: aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa 45 78 63 65 65 64 65 64  ........Exceeded
0000000000d45288: 20 4d 61 78 53 74 61 72 74 75 70 73 0d 0a 00 aa   MaxStartups....
00000000c40693de: aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa  ................
00000000cf8ee6dc: aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa  ................
000000005fa7b069: aa aa aa aa aa aa aa aa 10 00 00 00              ............
CPU: 1 PID: 25234 Comm: sshd Not tainted 5.12.0-rc2-00010-gd6be88a244a9-dirty #125
Hardware name: hp server rx3600                   , BIOS 04.03                                                            04/08/2008

Call Trace:
 [<a000000100015210>] show_stack+0x90/0xc0
 [<a000000101161760>] dump_stack+0x150/0x1c0
 [<a0000001003f17b0>] __kernel_unpoison_pages+0x3f0/0x400
 [<a0000001003c1dc0>] get_page_from_freelist+0x1460/0x2ca0
 [<a0000001003c6540>] __alloc_pages_nodemask+0x3c0/0x660
 [<a0000001003ecfd0>] alloc_pages_vma+0xb0/0x500
 [<a000000100375580>] wp_page_copy+0xe0/0x15e0
 [<a0000001003799b0>] do_wp_page+0x170/0xa00
 [<a00000010037e0e0>] __handle_mm_fault+0x1960/0x1fe0
 [<a00000010037ea70>] handle_mm_fault+0x310/0x4e0
 [<a00000010005da50>] ia64_do_page_fault+0x1f0/0xb80
 [<a00000010000ca00>] ia64_leave_kernel+0x0/0x270

Yay! Maybe that’s it?

The backtrace tells us it’s a page fault handling code faulting in a page that used to be in page freelist, but it’s already in a corruptted state: it should be full of aa values, but it clearly has some unrelated data like Exceeded MaxStartups.

I prepared for a deep dive into virtual memory management in *linux:

And after much debugging I found that this corruption is a bug in debugging mechanism /o\

init_on_alloc=1, init_on_free=1 and page_poison=on are in direct conflict (and a bit of redundancy) with each other:

The problem was that init_on_alloc=1 + init_on_free=1 + debug_pagealloc=1 led to page freeing with memset(aa) and allocation without any memset() at all. This caused two problems:

In our case alloc_page(__GFP_ZERO) was used for page table (PTE) allocations and instead of returning PTE of no pages it was full of bits that looked like pointers to other pages.

Once this conflict was understood it was easy to report the bug and fix it with help of mm folks: https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git/commit/?id=9df65f522536719682bccd24245ff94db956256c

There are many nuances when exactly the bug could happen. For example architecture must not support CONFIG_ARCH_SUPPORTS_DEBUG_PAGEALLOC (x86_64 was not affected by the bug). Otherwise different mechanisms kick in.

On a positive side a few month later I managed to fix a mirror image bug on x86_64: https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git/commit/?id=69e5d322a2fb86173fde8bad26e8eb38cad1b1e9

I’ll spare you the details why there is a complication of handling static keys and early parameters in a way that it could go out of sync like that.

another yak: page_owner

Linux kernel has a very cool facility enabled by both CONFIG_PAGE_OWNER=y and page_owner=on boot option. It’s idea is to keep the history of most recent callers who freed and who allocated the page including full backtrace and page flags. You can see full state for each page in /sys/kernel/debug/page_owner:

# cat /sys/kernel/debug/page_owner
  Page allocated via order 0, mask 0x12cc0(GFP_KERNEL|__GFP_NOWARN|__GFP_NORETRY),
   pid 1, ts 651931156 ns, free_ts 0 ns
  PFN 1049310 type Unmovable Block 1024 type Unmovable Flags 0x8000000000000200(sl

Initially I hoped to use page_owner to dump at corruption detection time and at random times when I want to see past page history manually (say, at NULL-corruption detection time).

The problem was that setting page_owner=on rendered ia64 unbootable. It happened because on ia64 stack unwinder requires memory allocation (and gets into infinite recursion) while on other arches it’s not required.

Fun fact: actually storing stack trace for page owner itself does require memory allocation as well (on any architecture). It could have a potential getting into recursion. page_owner code tried to prevent it by scanning current backtrace for duplicate address entries.

I sidestepped page_owner=on recursion by storing single bit in currently running task: https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git/commit/?id=8e9b16c47680f6e7d6e5864a37f313f905a91cf5

It should be slightly faster now.

While I have such a nice corruption reporter I attempted to explore and fix a few tools available to debug it efficintly:

back to strace killer

strace testsuite was still able to kill the box. Example crash looked like:

Unable to handle kernel paging request at virtual address aaaaaaaaaaaaaab2
swapper/0[0]: Oops 8813272891392 [1]
Modules linked in: acpi_ipmi e1000 usb_storage ipmi_si ipmi_devintf ipmi_msghandler rtc_efi

CPU: 0 PID: 0 Comm: swapper/0 Not tainted 5.12.0-rc2-00010-gd6be88a244a9-dirty #129
Hardware name: hp server rx3600                   , BIOS 04.03                                                            04/08/2008
psr : 0000101008026010 ifs : 8000000000000307 ip  : [<a000000100e8e670>]    Not tainted (5.12.0-rc2-00010-gd6be88a244a9-dirty)
ip is at sk_filter_release_rcu+0x70/0x120
unat: 0000000000000000 pfs : 0000000000000895 rsc : 0000000000000003
rnat: 0000000000000468 bsps: 0000000000001000 pr  : 01606a5694556a55
ldrs: 0000000000000000 ccv : 000000001f020f81 fpsr: 0009804c0270033f
csd : 0000000000000000 ssd : 0000000000000000
b0  : a00000010018fd00 b6  : a000000100e8e600 b7  : e00000003f81c740
f6  : 1003e000000000003ae7e f7  : 1003e0000000002813e10
f8  : 1003e0019aba91335cd31 f9  : 1003e0019b4e1e1313911
f10 : 1003e0000038521a57b7f f11 : 1003e0000000000000000
r1  : a0000001019465c0 r2  : a000000200034004 r3  : 00000000aaaaaaaa
r8  : aaaaaaaaaaaaaab2 r9  : a00000010174d0c0 r10 : ffffffffffa3cd70
r11 : a00000010148bec8 r12 : a000000101607ba0 r13 : a000000101600000
r14 : e000000116287718 r15 : a000000200034040 r16 : a000000100e8e600
r17 : e00000010e6dfe80 r18 : a000000101607bc0 r19 : e000000005808fc0
r20 : e00000010e6dfe80 r21 : 0000000000000000 r22 : e00000010e6dfe80
r23 : e00000010e6dfe80 r24 : e000000005808f78 r25 : 0000000000001f04
r26 : 00000000000cf92c r27 : 0000000000000007 r28 : a00000010174dba8
r29 : 0000000000000007 r30 : 0000000000000007 r31 : 000000000000000a

Call Trace:
 [<a000000100015210>] show_stack+0x90/0xc0
 [<a000000100015910>] show_regs+0x6d0/0xa40
 [<a000000100029420>] die+0x1e0/0x3c0
 [<a00000010005e370>] ia64_do_page_fault+0xb10/0xb80
 [<a00000010000ca00>] ia64_leave_kernel+0x0/0x270
 [<a000000100e8e670>] sk_filter_release_rcu+0x70/0x120
 [<a00000010018fd00>] rcu_core+0x8c0/0x1440
 [<a0000001001908a0>] rcu_core_si+0x20/0x40
 [<a000000101182cb0>] __do_softirq+0x230/0x670
 [<a000000100079d60>] irq_exit+0x180/0x220
 [<a000000100013a70>] ia64_handle_irq+0x1b0/0x360
 [<a00000010000ca00>] ia64_leave_kernel+0x0/0x270
 [<a0000001000143f0>] ia64_pal_call_static+0x90/0xc0
 [<a0000001000150c0>] ia64_pal_halt_light.isra.0+0x40/0x80
 [<a000000100016200>] arch_cpu_idle+0x100/0x1c0
 [<a0000001011818a0>] default_idle_call+0xe0/0x140
 [<a0000001000eb530>] do_idle+0x330/0x4e0
 [<a0000001000ebe30>] cpu_startup_entry+0x50/0x80
 [<a00000010116ded0>] rest_init+0x230/0x250
 [<a000000101490e70>] arch_call_rest_init+0x20/0x40
 [<a000000101491ad0>] start_kernel+0xbf0/0xc20
 [<a00000010116dc60>] start_ap+0x760/0x780
Disabling lock debugging due to kernel taint
Kernel panic - not syncing: Fatal exception
---[ end Kernel panic - not syncing: Fatal exception ]---

This time the victim is a swapper thread that happens to execute deferred sk_filter_release_rcu execution: strace test allocated sk_filter and someone else failed to free it. Virtual address aaaaaaaaaaaaaab2 says that it’s probably an use-after-free case.

Should be simple to debug, right?

As I already spent A Lot of time spelunking through memory management in ia64 I dropped a bit of dead code around DISCONTIGMEM: https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git/commit/?id=9187592b96385e5060dfb2b182aa9ec93d5c0332

From now on ia64 is just a SPARSEMEM architecture (or FLATMEM if you are lucky to get contiguous physical address layout, I am not: rx3600 has 1TB gap for me).

I minimized strace killer example down to:

#include <unistd.h>
#include <netinet/in.h>
#include <sys/socket.h>
#include <linux/filter.h>

int main(void)
    struct sock_filter bpf_filter[] = {
        BPF_STMT(BPF_RET|BPF_K, 0)
    struct sock_fprog prog = {
        .len = 1,
        .filter = bpf_filter,
    int fd = socket(AF_INET, SOCK_DGRAM, 0);
    setsockopt(fd, SOL_SOCKET, SO_ATTACH_FILTER, &prog, sizeof(prog));
    return 0;

This crashes guppy in a second (usually takes 8 runs):

$ gcc bug.c -o bug; while ./bug; do echo again; done

The sample program creates IPv4 socket and attackes BPF program to it. Kernel crashes at the cleanup time.

Socket filters are special in kernel because they use slightly different virtual memory freeing policy compared to rest of vmalloc()’ed regions: it’s called VM_FLUSH_RESET_PERMS. This flag should eagerly unmap memory and eagerly flush TLB. From my understanding it’s a security feature that slightly pessimizes performance and does not affect correctness (modulo bugs we probably observe here).

To get ia64 box into a fully stable state I ignore any VM_FLUSH_RESET_PERMS mappings with the following hack:

--- a/mm/vmalloc.c
+++ b/mm/vmalloc.c
@@ -2214,6 +2214,9 @@ static void vm_remove_mappings(struct vm_struct *area, int deallocate_pages)


+   /* workaround mysterious double-free on vmalloc() for bpf. */
+   return;
    /* If this is not VM_FLUSH_RESET_PERMS memory, no need for the below. */
    if (!flush_reset)

Unfortunately I don’t know yet why crash happens and can only speculate at this point. I suspect that mm code lacks a barrier somewhere that allows page reuse before TLB flush happens.

To be continued.

Parting Words

strace has a great test suite to detect all sorts of corner cases in linux kernel.

Random factoids:

Have fun!

Posted on August 7, 2021
comments powered by Disqus