[lkml]   [2018]   [Jan]   [3]   [last100]   RSS Feed
Views: [wrap][no wrap]   [headers]  [forward] 
Messages in this thread
Patch in this message
Subject[RFC PATCH 2/4] Documentation: document nospec helpers
Document the rationale and usage of the new nospec*() helpers.

Signed-off-by: Mark Rutland <>
Signed-off-by: Will Deacon <>
Documentation/speculation.txt | 99 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
1 file changed, 99 insertions(+)
create mode 100644 Documentation/speculation.txt

diff --git a/Documentation/speculation.txt b/Documentation/speculation.txt
new file mode 100644
index 000000000000..0bec4ed5ac29
--- /dev/null
+++ b/Documentation/speculation.txt
@@ -0,0 +1,99 @@
+This document explains potential effects of speculation, and how undesirable
+effects can be mitigated portably using common APIs.
+To improve performance and minimize average latencies, many contemporary CPUs
+employ speculative execution techniques such as branch prediction, performing
+work which may be discarded at a later stage.
+Typically speculative execution cannot be observed from architectural state,
+such as the contents of registers. However, in some cases it is possible to
+observe its impact on microarchitectural state, such as the presence or
+absence of data in caches. Such state may form side-channels which can be
+observed to extract secret information.
+For example, in the presence of branch prediction, it is possible for bounds
+checks to be ignored by code which is speculatively executed. Consider the
+following code:
+ int load_array(int *array, unsigned int idx) {
+ if (idx >= MAX_ARRAY_ELEMS)
+ return 0;
+ else
+ return array[idx];
+ }
+Which, on arm64, may be compiled to an assembly sequence such as:
+ B.LT less
+ MOV <returnval>, #0
+ less:
+ LDR <returnval>, [<array>, <idx>]
+It is possible that a CPU mis-predicts the conditional branch, and
+speculatively loads array[idx], even if idx >= MAX_ARRAY_ELEMS. This value
+will subsequently be discarded, but the speculated load may affect
+microarchitectural state which can be subsequently measured.
+More complex sequences involving multiple dependent memory accesses may result
+in sensitive information being leaked. Consider the following code, building on
+the prior example:
+ int load_dependent_arrays(int *arr1, int *arr2, int idx) {
+ int val1, val2,
+ val1 = load_array(arr1, idx);
+ val2 = load_array(arr2, val1);
+ return val2;
+ }
+Under speculation, the first call to load_array() may return the value of an
+out-of-bounds address, while the second call will influence microarchitectural
+state dependent on this value. This may provide an arbitrary read primitive.
+Mitigating speculation side-channels
+The kernel provides a generic API to ensure that bounds checks are respected
+even under speculation. Architectures which are affected by speculation-based
+side-channels are expected to implement these primitives.
+The following helpers found in <asm/barrier.h> can be used to prevent
+information from being leaked via side-channels.
+* nospec_load(ptr, lo, hi)
+ Returns the data at *ptr only if ptr falls in the [lo, hi) interval. When
+ ptr < lo or ptr >= hi, typeof(*ptr)0 is returned, even under speculation.
+ This does not prevent an out-of-bounds load from being speculated, but does
+ prevent its value from influencing code which is subsequently speculated,
+ preventing the value from being leaked.
+* nospec_array_load(arr, idx, sz)
+ Returns the data at arr[idx] only if idx falls in the [0, sz) interval. When
+ idx < 0 or idx > sz, typeof(*arr)0 is returned, even under speculation.
+ This is a wrapper around nospec_load() provided for convenience.
+* nospec_ptr(ptr, lo, hi)
+ Returns a sanitized pointer that is bounded by the [lo, hi) interval, even
+ under speculation. If ptr < lo, or ptr >= hi, NULL is returned.
+ This is expected to be used by code which computes a pointer to an element
+ of a data structure, or where multiple fields of a data structure will be
+ accessed.
+ Note that it is not safe to compare the returned value to the original
+ pointer, as compiler optimizations may infer that the original unsanitized
+ pointer is safe to use when the two compare equal.
 \ /
  Last update: 2018-01-03 23:39    [W:0.083 / U:16.120 seconds]
©2003-2018 Jasper Spaans|hosted at Digital Ocean and TransIP|Read the blog|Advertise on this site