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SubjectRe: [RFC][PATCH] Randomize kernel base address on boot
On Tue, May 24, 2011 at 4:31 PM, Dan Rosenberg <> wrote:
> This introduces CONFIG_RANDOMIZE_BASE, which randomizes the address at
> which the kernel is decompressed at boot as a security feature that
> deters exploit attempts relying on knowledge of the location of kernel
> internals.  The default values of the kptr_restrict and dmesg_restrict
> sysctls are set to (1) when this is enabled, since hiding kernel
> pointers is necessary to preserve the secrecy of the randomized base
> address.
> This feature also uses a fixed mapping to move the IDT (if not already
> done as a fix for the F00F bug), to avoid exposing the location of
> kernel internals relative to the original IDT.  This has the additional
> security benefit of marking the new virtual address of the IDT
> read-only.
> Entropy is generated using the RDRAND instruction if it is supported. If
> not, then RDTSC is used, if supported. If neither RDRAND nor RDTSC are
> supported, then no randomness is introduced. Support for the CPUID
> instruction is required to check for the availability of these two
> instructions.
> Thanks to everyone who contributed helpful suggestions and feedback so
> far.
> Comments/Questions:
> * Since RDRAND is relatively new, only the most recent version of
> binutils supports assembling it.  To avoid breaking builds for people
> who use older toolchains but want this feature, I hardcoded the opcodes.
> If anyone has a better approach, please let me know.
> * I chose to mimic the F00F bugfix behavior for moving the IDT, since it
> required very little code and has the additional benefit of making the
> IDT read-only. Ingo Molnar's suggestion of allocating per-cpu IDTs
> instead is still on the table, and I'd like to get feedback on this.
> * In order to increase the entropy for the randomized base, I changed
> the default value of CONFIG_PHYSICAL_ALIGN back to 2mb.  It had
> previously been raised to 16mb as a hack so that relocatable kernels
> wouldn't load below that minimum.  I address this by changing the
> meaning of CONFIG_PHYSICAL_START such that it now represents a minimum
> address that relocatable kernels can be loaded at (rather than being
> ignored by relocatable kernels).  So, if a relocatable kernel determines
> it should be loaded at an address below CONFIG_PHYSICAL_START (which
> defaults to 16mb), I just bump it up.
> * I would appreciate guidance on safe values for the highest addresses
> we can safely load the kernel at, on both 32-bit and 64-bit. This
> version uses 64mb (0x4000000) for 32-bit, and worked well in testing.
> * CONFIG_RANDOMIZE_BASE automatically sets the default value of
> kptr_restrict and dmesg_restrict to 1, since it's nonsensical to use
> this without the other two.  I considered removing
> CONFIG_SECURITY_DMESG_RESTRICT altogether (it currently sets the default
> value for dmesg_restrict), but just in case distros want to keep the
> CONFIG as a toggle switch but don't want to use CONFIG_RANDOMIZE_BASE, I
> kept it around.  So, now CONFIG_RANDOMIZE_BASE sets the default value
> * x86-64 is still "to-do". Because it calculates the kernel text address
> twice, this may be a little trickier.

This trick doesn't work as you may expect on 64-bit. You are
relocating the physical image of the kernel, but the kernel actually
runs from a fixed virtual mapping. This would require adding the
relocation code that 32-bit uses, so the virtual address can be

Brian Gerst
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