Continuation of signal semantics improvements

April 04, 2019 posted by Kamil Rytarowski

Over the past month I've finally managed to correct masking semantics of crash signals (SIGSEGV, SIGTRAP, SIGILL, SIGFPE, SIGBUS). Additionally I've fixed masking semantics in forks(2) and vforks(2) (they trigger a crash signal SIGTRAP). There is remaining work in signal semantics for other types of events (mainly thread related). The coverage of signal code in ptrace(2) regression tests keeps continuously incrementing.

Crash signal masking

Certain applications and frameworks mask signals that occur during crashes. This can happen deliberately or by an accident when masking all signals in a process.

There are two basic types of signals in this regard:

  • emitted by a debugger-related event (such as software or hardware breakpoint),
  • emitted by other source such as other process (kill(2)) or raised in a thread (raise(2)).
The NetBSD kernel had no subtlety to distinguish these two events and regular signal masking was affecting both types of sources of these signals. This caused various side effects such as a developer being unable to single step a code or after placing a software trap and silently moving over it crashing an application due to abnormal conditions.

Not only debuggers were affected, but software reusing the debugging APIs internally, including the DTrace tools in userland.

Right now the semantics of crash signals has been fixed for traps issued by crashes (such as software breakpoint of segmentation fault) and fork(2)/vfork(2) events.

New ATF tests for ptrace(2)

Browsing the available Linux resources with tests against ptrace(2), I got an inspiration to validate whether unaligned memory access through the PT_READ/PT_WRITE and PIOD READ/WRITE/READ_AUXV operations. These calls are needed to transfer data between the memory of a debugger and a debuggee. They are documented and expected to be safe for a potentially misaligned access. Newly added tests validate whether it is true.

It's much better to detect a potential problem with ATF rather than a kernel crash on a more sensitive CPU (most RISC-ones) during operation.

Plan for the next milestone

Keep preparing kernel fixes and after thorough verification applying them to the mainline distribution.

This work was sponsored by The NetBSD Foundation.

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