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Default Memory Allocator Security Protections using Silicon Secured Memory (SSM ADI)

Darren Moffat
Senior Software Architect

In Solaris 11.3 we provided the ability to use the Silicon Secured Memory feature of the Oracle SPARC processors in the M7 and M8 families. An API for applications to explicitly manage ADI (Application Data Integrity) versioning was provided, see adi(2) man page, as well as new memory allocator library - libadimalloc(3LIB).

This required either code changes to the application or arranging to set LD_PRELOAD_64=/usr/lib/64/libadimalloc.so.1 in the environment variables before the application started. The libadimalloc(3LIB) allocator was derived from the libumem(3LIB) codebase but doesn't expose all of the features that libumem does.

With Oracle Solaris 11.4 Beta the use of ADI has been integrated into the default system memory allocator in libc(3LIB) and libumem(3LIB), while retaining libadimalloc(3LIB) for backwards compatibility with Oracle Solaris 11.3 systems.

Control of which processes run with ADI protection is now via the Security Extensions Framework, usng sxadm(8), so it is no longer necessary to set the $LD_PRELOAD_64 environment variable.

There are two distinct ADI based protections exposed via the Security Extensions Framework: ADISTACK and ADIHEAP. To complement the existing extensions introduced in earlier Oracle Solaris 11 update releases: ASLR, NXHEAP, NXSTACK (all three of which are available on SPARC and x86 CPU systems).

ADIHEAP is how the ADI protection is exposed via the standard libc memory allocator and via libumem. The ADISTACK extension as the name suggests is for protectiong the register save area of the stack.

$ sxadm status
EXTENSION           STATUS                        CONFIGURATION
aslr                enabled (tagged-files)        default (default)
nxstack             enabled (all)                 default (default)
nxheap              enabled (tagged-files)        default (default)
adiheap             enabled (tagged-files)        default (default)
adistack            enabled (tagged-files)        default (default)

The above output from sxadm shows the default configuration of an Oracle SPARC M7/M8 based system. What we can see here is that some of the security extensions, including adiheap/adistack, are enabled by default only for tagged-files. Executable binaries can be tagged using ld(1) as documented in sxadm(8), for example if we want to tag an application at build time to use adiheap we would add '-z sx=adiheap'. Note it is not meaningful at this time to tag shared libaries only leaf executable programs.

Most executables in Oracle Solaris were already tagged to run with the aslr, nxstack, nxheap security extensions. Now many of them are also tagged for ADISTACK and ADIHEAP as well. For the Oracle Solaris 11.4 release we have also had to explicitly tag some executables to not run with ADIHEAP and/or ADISTACK, this is either due to outstanding issues when running with an ADI allocator or in some cases to more fundamental issues with how the prgoram itself works (ImageMagic graphics image processing tool is one such example where ADISTACK is explicily disabled).

The sxadm command can be used to start processes with security extensions enabled regardless of the system wide status and binary tagging. For example to start a program that was not tagged at build time with both ADI based protections, in addtion to its binary tagged extensions:

$ sxadm exec -s adistack=enable -s adiheap=enable /path/to/program

It is possible to edit binary executables to add the security extension tags, even if there were none present at link time. Explicit tagging of binaries already installed on a system and delivered by any package management software is not recommened.

If all of the untagged applications that are deployed to be run on a system have been tested to work with the ADI protections then it is possible to chane the system wide defaults rather than having to use sxadm to run the processes:

# sxadm enable adistack,adiheap

The Oracle Solaris 11.4 Beta also has support for use of ADI to protect kernel memory, that is currently undocumented but is planned to be exposed via sxadm by 11.4 release or soon after. The KADI support also includes a signifcant amount of ADI support in mdb, for both live and post-mortem kernel debugging. KADI is enabled by default with precise traps when running a debug build of the kernel. The debug builds are published in the public Oracle Solaris 11.4 Beta repository and can be enabled by running:

# pkg change-variant debug.osnet=true

The use of ADI via the standard libc and libumem memory allocators and by the kernel (in LDOMs and Zones including with live migration/suspend) has enabled the Oracle Solaris engineering team to find and fix many otherwise difficult to find or diagnose bugs. However we are not yet at a point where we believe all applications from all vendors are sufficiently well behaved that the ADISTACK and ADIHEAP protections can be enabled by default.

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