Re: [kernel-hardening] [PATCH 23/23] mm: Allow slab_nomerge to be set at build time

From: Kees Cook
Date: Tue Jun 20 2017 - 18:51:26 EST

On Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 9:09 PM, Daniel Micay <danielmicay@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> On Mon, 2017-06-19 at 16:36 -0700, Kees Cook wrote:
>> Some hardened environments want to build kernels with slab_nomerge
>> already set (so that they do not depend on remembering to set the
>> kernel
>> command line option). This is desired to reduce the risk of kernel
>> heap
>> overflows being able to overwrite objects from merged caches,
>> increasing
>> the difficulty of these attacks. By keeping caches unmerged, these
>> kinds
>> of exploits can usually only damage objects in the same cache (though
>> the
>> risk to metadata exploitation is unchanged).
> It also further fragments the ability to influence slab cache layout,
> i.e. primitives to do things like filling up slabs to set things up for
> an exploit might not be able to deal with the target slabs anymore. It
> doesn't need to be mentioned but it's something to think about too. In
> theory, disabling merging can make it *easier* to get the right layout
> too if there was some annoyance that's now split away. It's definitely a
> lot more good than bad for security though, but allocator changes have
> subtle impact on exploitation. This can make caches more deterministic.

Good point about changes to heap grooming; I'll adjust the commit log.


Kees Cook
Pixel Security