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Subject[PATCH 07/10] pkeys: add details of system call use to Documentation/

From: Dave Hansen <>

This spells out all of the pkey-related system calls that we have
and provides some example code fragments to demonstrate how we
expect them to be used.

Signed-off-by: Dave Hansen <>
Cc: Arnd Bergmann <>

b/Documentation/x86/protection-keys.txt | 62 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
1 file changed, 62 insertions(+)

diff -puN Documentation/x86/protection-keys.txt~pkeys-120-syscall-docs Documentation/x86/protection-keys.txt
--- a/Documentation/x86/protection-keys.txt~pkeys-120-syscall-docs 2016-07-29 09:18:58.863582283 -0700
+++ b/Documentation/x86/protection-keys.txt 2016-07-29 09:18:58.866582419 -0700
@@ -18,6 +18,68 @@ even though there is theoretically space
permissions are enforced on data access only and have no effect on
instruction fetches.

+=========================== Syscalls ===========================
+There are 2 system calls which directly interact with pkeys:
+ int pkey_alloc(unsigned long flags, unsigned long init_access_rights)
+ int pkey_free(int pkey);
+ int pkey_mprotect(unsigned long start, size_t len,
+ unsigned long prot, int pkey);
+Before a pkey can be used, it must first be allocated with
+pkey_alloc(). An application calls the WRPKRU instruction
+directly in order to change access permissions to memory covered
+with a key. In this example WRPKRU is wrapped by a C function
+called pkey_set().
+ int real_prot = PROT_READ|PROT_WRITE;
+ pkey = pkey_alloc(0, PKEY_DENY_WRITE);
+ ret = pkey_mprotect(ptr, PAGE_SIZE, real_prot, pkey);
+ ... application runs here
+Now, if the application needs to update the data at 'ptr', it can
+gain access, do the update, then remove its write access:
+ pkey_set(pkey, 0); // clear PKEY_DENY_WRITE
+ *ptr = foo; // assign something
+ pkey_set(pkey, PKEY_DENY_WRITE); // set PKEY_DENY_WRITE again
+Now when it frees the memory, it will also free the pkey since it
+is no longer in use:
+ munmap(ptr, PAGE_SIZE);
+ pkey_free(pkey);
+=========================== Behavior ===========================
+The kernel attempts to make protection keys consistent with the
+behavior of a plain mprotect(). For instance if you do this:
+ mprotect(ptr, size, PROT_NONE);
+ something(ptr);
+you can expect the same effects with protection keys when doing this:
+ pkey = pkey_alloc(0, PKEY_DISABLE_WRITE | PKEY_DISABLE_READ);
+ pkey_mprotect(ptr, size, PROT_READ|PROT_WRITE, pkey);
+ something(ptr);
+That should be true whether something() is a direct access to 'ptr'
+ *ptr = foo;
+or when the kernel does the access on the application's behalf like
+with a read():
+ read(fd, ptr, 1);
+The kernel will send a SIGSEGV in both cases, but si_code will be set
+to SEGV_PKERR when violating protection keys versus SEGV_ACCERR when
+the plain mprotect() permissions are violated.
=========================== Config Option ===========================

This config option adds approximately 1.5kb of text. and 50 bytes of
 \ /
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