[PATCH] ptrace.2: Improve clarity for multi-threaded tracers

From: Niklas HambÃchen
Date: Sun Feb 17 2019 - 11:34:53 EST

Until now, the man page said:

Attachment and subsequent commands are per thread:
in a multiâ threaded process, every thread can be individually attached to a
(potentially different) tracer, or left not attached and thus not debugged.
Therefore, "tracee" always means "(one) thread", never "a (possibly
multithreaded) process".

While the first sentence "Attachment ... [is] per thread" might be interpreted
as holding for both tracer and tracee, the rest talks only about the
multi-threadedness of the *tracee*, leaving some uncertainty in the reader on
whether the tracer may issue `ptrace()` from different threads.

This patch adds more explicitness, removing any doubt.

Relevant resources:

* LKML thread https://marc.info/?l=linux-kernel&m=155036848808748&w=2
"ptrace() with multithreaded tracer"
where I asked about this behaviour, in case anybody disagrees with my
* https://stackoverflow.com/questions/18737866/can-a-thread-trace-a-process/
where the previous ambiguity of the man page confused some users, and where
and example program is given that confirms the behaviour I mention in this
* A program of mine, in which I have independently confirmed that using
`ptrace()` from a thread that's not the tracer thread (a sibling thread in
the process is the tracer instead) results in `ESRCH`
* https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git/tree/kernel/ptrace.c?id=96d4f267e40f9509e8a66e2b39e8b95655617693#n207
where the comment on `ptrace_check_attach()` talks about `%current`, which
is a thread

Signed-off-by: Niklas HambÃchen <mail@xxxxxx>
man2/ptrace.2 | 14 ++++++++++----
1 file changed, 10 insertions(+), 4 deletions(-)

diff --git a/man2/ptrace.2 b/man2/ptrace.2
index 3b6b6ea84..4058abe94 100644
--- a/man2/ptrace.2
+++ b/man2/ptrace.2
@@ -122,12 +122,18 @@ It is primarily used to implement breakpoint debugging and system
call tracing.
A tracee first needs to be attached to the tracer.
-Attachment and subsequent commands are per thread:
-in a multithreaded process,
+Attachment and subsequent commands are per thread,
+on both the tracer and tracee side.
+Issuing a tracing command from a thread that is not the tracer of the given
+.I pid
+will result in an
+In a multithreaded process to be traced,
every thread can be individually attached to a
(potentially different) tracer,
or left not attached and thus not debugged.
-Therefore, "tracee" always means "(one) thread",
+Therefore, "tracer" or "tracee" always mean "(one) thread",
never "a (possibly multithreaded) process".
Ptrace commands are always sent to
a specific tracee using a call of the form
@@ -2259,7 +2265,7 @@ or (on kernels before 2.6.26) be
The specified process does not exist, or is not currently being traced
-by the caller, or is not stopped
+by the calling thread, or is not stopped
(for requests that require a stopped tracee).
SVr4, 4.3BSD.