[PATCH] hex2bin: make the function hex_to_bin constant-time
From: Mikulas Patocka
Date: Sun Apr 24 2022 - 16:54:52 EST
The function hex2bin is used to load cryptographic keys into device mapper
targets dm-crypt and dm-integrity. It should take constant time
independent on the processed data, so that concurrently running
unprivileged code can't infer any information about the keys via
microarchitectural convert channels.
This patch changes the function hex_to_bin so that it contains no branches
and no memory accesses.
Note that this shouldn't cause performance degradation because the size of
the new function is the same as the size of the old function (on x86-64) -
and the new function causes no branch misprediction penalties.
I compile-tested this function with gcc on aarch64 alpha arm hppa hppa64
i386 ia64 m68k mips32 mips64 powerpc powerpc64 riscv sh4 s390x sparc32
sparc64 x86_64 and with clang on aarch64 arm hexagon i386 mips32 mips64
powerpc powerpc64 s390x sparc32 sparc64 x86_64 to verify that there are no
branches in the generated code.
Signed-off-by: Mikulas Patocka <mpatocka@xxxxxxxxxx>
lib/hexdump.c | 27 +++++++++++++++++++++------
1 file changed, 21 insertions(+), 6 deletions(-)
--- linux-2.6.orig/lib/hexdump.c 2022-04-24 18:51:20.000000000 +0200
+++ linux-2.6/lib/hexdump.c 2022-04-24 18:51:20.000000000 +0200
@@ -22,15 +22,30 @@ EXPORT_SYMBOL(hex_asc_upper);
* hex_to_bin() converts one hex digit to its actual value or -1 in case of bad
+ * This function is used to load cryptographic keys, so it is coded in such a
+ * way that there are no conditions or memory accesses that depend on data.
+ * Explanation of the logic:
+ * (ch - '9' - 1) is negative if ch <= '9'
+ * ('0' - 1 - ch) is negative if ch >= '0'
+ * we "and" these two values, so the result is negative if ch is in the range
+ * '0' ... '9'
+ * we are only interested in the sign, so we do a shift ">> 8" --- we have -1 if
+ * ch is in the range '0' ... '9', 0 otherwise
+ * we "and" this value with (ch - '0' + 1) --- we have a value 1 ... 10 if ch is
+ * in the range '0' ... '9', 0 otherwise
+ * we add this value to -1 --- we have a value 0 ... 9 if ch is in the range '0'
+ * ... '9', -1 otherwise
+ * the next line is similar to the previous one, but we need to decode both
+ * uppercase and lowercase letters, so we use (ch & 0xdf), which converts
+ * lowercase to uppercase
int hex_to_bin(char ch)
- if ((ch >= '0') && (ch <= '9'))
- return ch - '0';
- ch = tolower(ch);
- if ((ch >= 'a') && (ch <= 'f'))
- return ch - 'a' + 10;
- return -1;
+ return -1 +
+ ((ch - '0' + 1) & (((ch - '9' - 1) & ('0' - 1 - ch)) >> 8)) +
+ (((ch & 0xdf) - 'A' + 11) & ((((ch & 0xdf) - 'F' - 1) & ('A' - 1 - (ch & 0xdf))) >> 8));