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From: "Madhavan T. Venkataraman" <>
To: Anthony Green <>
Cc: libffi-discuss <>,, DJ Delorie <>
Subject: Re: [RFC PATCH v3 0/5] Libffi Static Trampolines
Date: Wed, 27 Jan 2021 11:20:46 -0600	[thread overview]
Message-ID: <> (raw)
In-Reply-To: <>

On 1/26/21 5:41 PM, Anthony Green wrote:
> Madhaven,
>   Thank you for your continued efforts here.
> On Fri, Jan 15, 2021 at 1:47 PM < <>> wrote:
>     Trampoline API
>     ==============
>     There is a lot of dynamic code out there. They all have the same security
>     issue. Dynamic code can be re-written into static code provided the data
>     required by the static code can be passed to it just like we pass the closure
>     pointer to an ABI handler.
>     So, the same trampoline functions used by libffi internally need to be
>     made available to the rest of the world in the form of an API. The
>     following API has been defined in this solution:
> I need a better explanation around why this new API is required, and this new capability isn't just an implementation detail supporting the old API.

Example 1

Let us say that an application or a library has a simple trampoline - load a value or
an address in a register or the stack and transfer control to some target function.
It would have dynamic code to do that just like libffi currently does.

Dynamic code has a security issue as I have explained in the cover letter. It needs
to be loaded in an executable page. A clever hacker may be able to inject his code
in that page. To prevent that, dynamic code has to be converted into static code
so that it is in a read-only text segment.

I have solved this problem for libffi and I have provided statically defined trampolines.

The application or library that is currently using dynamic code for its trampoline could
instead use the libffi API and replace its trampoline. This would eliminate dynamic code
from that application or library and make it more secure.

The only thing is that the target function should now expect its data in the libffi
designated scratch register instead of whatever it was using. This is trivial to do.

Example 2

Let us say that an application or library uses something more complicated than the
libffi trampoline. For example, a piece of dynamic code that unmarshalls parameters
from a structure and calls a target function.

The application developer is interested in eliminating this piece of dynamic code
for security purposes. The developer could rewrite the dynamic code into static
code. The only thing is that the structure pointer needs to be passed to the static
code. Either the application developer can write his own code (using PC-relative
accesses, etc) to pass data. Or, he can use the libffi API to do it.

So, the only effort for the developer/maintainer of the application/library is to
rewrite the unmarshalling dynamic code into static code. That should be straight forward.

Example 3

Let us say that an application or library has a piece of dynamic code to perform
some computation and produce results. It is written as dynamic code because
the exact set of arguments and the exact computation is known only at runtime.
So, the dynamic code is generated at runtime accordingly. When the code is
generated, the data needed by the code is embedded in the generated code.

In this case, the developer needs to do a little extra work. E.g.,

- Define a union of structures with each structure defining a particular
  computation and set of arguments.

- Write static code to accept a pointer to the union and perform
  different computations and return results in that union.

- Then, the static code can be invoked using the libffi API and the union
  pointer can be passed to it.


There are a lot of applications that use dynamic code out there. Dynamic code
should be eliminated as far as possible for security purposes.

I believe most of them can be converted to static code by the maintainers. All
they need is a method to pass data to their static code without having to implement
the method themselves. The libffi API provides that.

The libffi API can also be supported easily for multiple architectures so that
applications can use the API in an architecture-independent way.

Is this sufficient justification for the API?


  reply	other threads:[~2021-01-27 17:20 UTC|newest]

Thread overview: 30+ messages / expand[flat|nested]  mbox.gz  Atom feed  top
     [not found] <1ef5c7e1c9a6ebb140a476ba555ec955681f4fba>
2021-01-15 18:46 ` madvenka
2021-01-15 18:46   ` [RFC PATCH v3 1/5] " madvenka
2021-01-27  3:31     ` DJ Delorie
2021-01-27 21:51       ` Madhavan T. Venkataraman
2021-01-27 22:15         ` DJ Delorie
2021-01-27 22:43           ` Madhavan T. Venkataraman
2021-01-15 18:46   ` [RFC PATCH v3 2/5] x86: Support for " madvenka
2021-01-27  3:31     ` DJ Delorie
2021-01-28 21:59       ` Madhavan T. Venkataraman
2021-01-28 22:17         ` DJ Delorie
2021-01-28 23:25           ` Madhavan T. Venkataraman
2021-01-29  2:09             ` DJ Delorie
2021-01-29  2:38               ` Madhavan T. Venkataraman
2021-01-29  2:48                 ` DJ Delorie
2021-01-29  3:24                   ` Madhavan T. Venkataraman
2021-01-29  6:07                     ` DJ Delorie
2021-02-01 19:46                 ` DJ Delorie
2021-01-15 18:46   ` [RFC PATCH v3 3/5] i386: " madvenka
2021-01-15 18:46   ` [RFC PATCH v3 4/5] arm64: " madvenka
2021-01-15 18:46   ` [RFC PATCH v3 5/5] arm: " madvenka
2021-01-26 23:41   ` [RFC PATCH v3 0/5] Libffi " Anthony Green
2021-01-27 17:20     ` Madhavan T. Venkataraman [this message]
2021-01-27 18:00       ` Anthony Green
2021-01-27 19:45         ` Madhavan T. Venkataraman
2021-01-28 14:21           ` Anthony Green
2021-01-28 17:01             ` Madhavan T. Venkataraman
2021-02-05 18:20               ` Madhavan T. Venkataraman
2021-02-05 18:46                 ` Anthony Green
2021-02-05 19:38                   ` Madhavan T. Venkataraman
2021-02-07 16:09                     ` Madhavan T. Venkataraman

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