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Subject[PATCH 00/23] [v4] KAISER: unmap most of the kernel from userspace page tables
Thanks, everyone for all the reviews thus far.  I hope I managed to
address all the feedback given so far, except for the TODOs of
course. This is a pretty minor update compared to v1->v2.

These patches are all on this tip branch:

Changes from v3:
* Remove process stack mappings. Andy's new entry trampoline
gets rid of needing to do this.
* A bunch of cleanups and a few minor fixes in response to
a review from Thomas Gleixner, including a bunch of commit
message text, comments, and documentation.
* Removed debug IDT in shadow mapping (thanks to Andy L).

Changes from v2:
* Reword documentation removing "we"
* Fix some whitespace damage
* Fix up MAX ASID values off-by-one noted by Peter Z
* Change CodingStyle stuff from Borislav comments
* Always use _KERNPG_TABLE for pmd_populate_kernel().

Changes from v1:
* Updated to be on top of Andy L's new entry code
* Allow global pages again, and use them for pages mapped into
userspace page tables.
* Use trampoline stack instead of process stack at entry so no
longer need to map process stack (big win in fork() speed)
* Made the page table walking less generic by restricting it
to kernel addresses and !_PAGE_USER pages.
* Added a debugfs file to enable/disable CR3 switching at
runtime. This does not remove all the KAISER overhead, but
it removes the largest source.
* Use runtime disable with Xen to permit Xen-PV guests with
* Moved assembly code from "core" to "prepare assembly" patch
* Pass full register name to asm macros
* Remove double stack switch in entry_SYSENTER_compat
* Disable vsyscall native case when KAISER=y
* Separate PER_CPU_USER_MAPPED generic definitions from use
by arch/x86/.

* Allow dumping the shadow page tables with the ptdump code
* Put LDT at top of userspace
* Create separate tlb flushing functions for user and kernel
* Chase down the source of the new !CR4.PGE warning that 0day
found with i386



KAISER makes it harder to defeat KASLR, but makes syscalls and
interrupts slower. These patches are based on work from a team at
Graz University of Technology posted here[1]. The major addition is
support for Intel PCIDs which builds on top of Andy Lutomorski's PCID
work merged for 4.14. PCIDs make KAISER's overhead very reasonable
for a wide variety of use cases.

Full Description:

KAISER is a countermeasure against attacks on kernel address
information. There are at least three existing, published,
approaches using the shared user/kernel mapping and hardware features
to defeat KASLR. One approach referenced in the paper locates the
kernel by observing differences in page fault timing between
present-but-inaccessable kernel pages and non-present pages.

KAISER addresses this by unmapping (most of) the kernel when
userspace runs. It leaves the existing page tables largely alone and
refers to them as "kernel page tables". For running userspace, a new
"shadow" copy of the page tables is allocated for each process. The
shadow page tables map all the same user memory as the "kernel" copy,
but only maps a minimal set of kernel memory.

When we enter the kernel via syscalls, interrupts or exceptions,
page tables are switched to the full "kernel" copy. When the system
switches back to user mode, the "shadow" copy is used. Process
Context IDentifiers (PCIDs) are used to to ensure that the TLB is not
flushed when switching between page tables, which makes syscalls
roughly 2x faster than without it. PCIDs are usable on Haswell and
newer CPUs (the ones with "v4", or called fourth-generation Core).

The minimal kernel page tables try to map only what is needed to
enter/exit the kernel such as the entry/exit functions, interrupt
descriptors (IDT) and the kernel trampoline stacks. This minimal set
of data can still reveal the kernel's ASLR base address. But, this
minimal kernel data is all trusted, which makes it harder to exploit
than data in the kernel direct map which contains loads of
user-controlled data.

KAISER will affect performance for anything that does system calls or
interrupts: everything. Just the new instructions (CR3 manipulation)
add a few hundred cycles to a syscall or interrupt. Most workloads
that we have run show single-digit regressions. 5% is a good round
number for what is typical. The worst we have seen is a roughly 30%
regression on a loopback networking test that did a ton of syscalls
and context switches. More details about possible performance
impacts are in the new Documentation/ file.

This code is based on a version I downloaded from
( It has been heavily modified.

The approach is described in detail in a paper[2]. However, there is
some incorrect and information in the paper, both on how Linux and
the hardware works. For instance, I do not share the opinion that
KAISER has "runtime overhead of only 0.28%". Please rely on this
patch series as the canonical source of information about this

Here is one example of how the kernel image grow with CONFIG_KAISER
on and off. Most of the size increase is presumably from additional
alignment requirements for mapping entry/exit code and structures.

text data bss dec filename
11786064 7356724 2928640 22071428 vmlinux-nokaiser
11798203 7371704 2928640 22098547 vmlinux-kaiser
+12139 +14980 0 +27119

To give folks an idea what the performance impact is like, I took
the following test and ran it single-threaded:

It's a pretty quick syscall so this shows how much KAISER slows
down syscalls (and how much PCIDs help). The units here are

no kaiser: 5.2M
kaiser+ pcid: 3.0M
kaiser+nopcid: 2.2M

"nopcid" is literally with the "nopcid" command-line option which
turns PCIDs off entirely.

Thanks to:
The original KAISER team at Graz University of Technology.
Andy Lutomirski for all the help with the entry code.
Kirill Shutemov for a helpful review of the code.



The code is available here:

Documentation/x86/kaiser.txt | 162 +++++
arch/x86/Kconfig | 8 +
arch/x86/entry/calling.h | 89 +++
arch/x86/entry/entry_64.S | 48 +-
arch/x86/entry/entry_64_compat.S | 32 +-
arch/x86/events/intel/ds.c | 49 +-
arch/x86/include/asm/cpufeatures.h | 1 +
arch/x86/include/asm/desc.h | 2 +-
arch/x86/include/asm/kaiser.h | 68 +++
arch/x86/include/asm/mmu_context.h | 29 +-
arch/x86/include/asm/pgtable.h | 19 +-
arch/x86/include/asm/pgtable_64.h | 146 +++++
arch/x86/include/asm/pgtable_types.h | 25 +-
arch/x86/include/asm/processor.h | 2 +-
arch/x86/include/asm/tlbflush.h | 208 ++++++-
arch/x86/include/uapi/asm/processor-flags.h | 3 +-
arch/x86/kernel/cpu/common.c | 10 +-
arch/x86/kernel/espfix_64.c | 27 +-
arch/x86/kernel/head_64.S | 30 +-
arch/x86/kernel/ldt.c | 25 +-
arch/x86/kernel/process.c | 2 +-
arch/x86/kernel/process_64.c | 2 +-
arch/x86/kvm/x86.c | 3 +-
arch/x86/mm/Makefile | 1 +
arch/x86/mm/init.c | 75 ++-
arch/x86/mm/kaiser.c | 620 ++++++++++++++++++++
arch/x86/mm/pageattr.c | 18 +-
arch/x86/mm/pgtable.c | 16 +-
arch/x86/mm/tlb.c | 105 +++-
include/asm-generic/ | 7 +
include/linux/kaiser.h | 38 ++
include/linux/percpu-defs.h | 30 +
init/main.c | 3 +
kernel/fork.c | 1 +
security/Kconfig | 10 +
35 files changed, 1783 insertions(+), 131 deletions(-)

Cc: Moritz Lipp <>
Cc: Daniel Gruss <>
Cc: Michael Schwarz <>
Cc: Richard Fellner <>
Cc: Andy Lutomirski <>
Cc: Linus Torvalds <>
Cc: Kees Cook <>
Cc: Hugh Dickins <>
Cc: Juergen Gross <>

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