Adapting TriforceAFL for NetBSD, Part 3

August 26, 2019 posted by Kamil Rytarowski

Prepared by Akul Pillai as part of GSoC 2019.

This is the third report summarising the work done in the third coding period for the GSoC project of Adapting TriforceAFL for NetBSD kernel syscall fuzzing.
Please also go through the first and second report.

This post also outlines the work done throughout the duration of GSoC, describes the implications of the same and future improvements to come.

Current State

As of now TriforceAFL has been made available in the form of a pkgsrc package (wip/triforceafl). This package allows you to essentially fuzz anything in QEMU’s full system emulation mode using AFL. TriforceNetBSDSyscallFuzzer is built on top of TriforceAFL, specifically to fuzz the NetBSD kernel syscalls. It has also now been made available as wip/triforcenetbsdsyscallfuzzer.
Several minor issues found in the above two packages have now been resolved, and the project restructured.

Issues found include:

  • The input generators would also test the the generated inputs, causing several syscalls to be executed which messed up permissions of several other directories and lead to other unwanted consequences. Testing of syscalls has now been disabled as the working ones are specified.
  • Directory specified for the BIOS, VGA BIOS and keymaps for QEMU in the runFuzz script was incorrect. This was because wip/triforceafl did not install the specified directory. The package has now been patched to install the pc-bios directory.
  • The project was structured in a manner where the host was Linux and the target was NetBSD. Since that is no longer the case and the fuzzer is meant to be run on a NetBSD machine, the project was restructured so that everything is now in one directory and there is no longer a need to move files around.

The packages should now work as intended by following the instructions outlined in the README.

The fuzzer was able to detect a few bugs in the last coding period, details can be found in the last report. During this coding period, the Fuzzer was able to detect 79 unique crashes in a period of 2 weeks running on a single machine. The kernel was built with DEBUG + LOCKDEBUG + DIAGNOSTIC. Work is underway to analyse, report and fix the new bugs and to make the process faster.

With an initial analysis on the outputs on the basis of the syscall that lead to the crash, 6 of the above crashes were unique bugs, the rest were duplicates or slight variants, of which 3 have been previously reported.
Here are the backtraces of the new bugs found (The reproducers were run with kUBSan Enabled):


[ 110.4035826] panic: cv_enter,172: uninitialized lock (lock=0xffffe3c1b9
fc0c50, from=ffffffff81a436e9)
[ 110.4035826] cpu0: Begin traceback...
[ 110.4035826] vpanic() at netbsd:vpanic+0x1fd
[ 110.4035826] snprintf() at netbsd:snprintf
[ 110.4035826] lockdebug_locked() at netbsd:lockdebug_locked+0x45e
[ 110.4035826] cv_timedwait_sig() at netbsd:cv_timedwait_sig+0xe7
[ 110.4035826] lfs_segwait() at netbsd:lfs_segwait+0x6e
[ 110.4035826] sys___lfs_segwait50() at netbsd:sys___lfs_segwait50+0xe2
[ 110.4035826] sys___syscall() at netbsd:sys___syscall+0x121
[ 110.4035826] syscall() at netbsd:syscall+0x1a5
[ 110.4035826] --- syscall (number 198) ---
[ 110.4035826] 40261a:
[ 110.4035826] cpu0: End traceback...
[ 110.4035826] fatal breakpoint trap in supervisor mode
[ 110.4035826] trap type 1 code 0 rip 0xffffffff8021ddf5 cs 0x8 rflags 0x282 cr2
 0x73f454b70000 ilevel 0x8 rsp 0xffff8a0068390d70
[ 110.4035826] curlwp 0xffffe3c1efc556a0 pid 709.1 lowest kstack 0xffff8a006838d
Stopped in pid 709.1 (driver) at        netbsd:breakpoint+0x5:  leave
db{0}> bt
breakpoint() at netbsd:breakpoint+0x5
vpanic() at netbsd:vpanic+0x1fd
snprintf() at netbsd:snprintf
lockdebug_locked() at netbsd:lockdebug_locked+0x45e
cv_timedwait_sig() at netbsd:cv_timedwait_sig+0xe7
lfs_segwait() at netbsd:lfs_segwait+0x6e
sys___lfs_segwait50() at netbsd:sys___lfs_segwait50+0xe2
sys___syscall() at netbsd:sys___syscall+0x121
syscall() at netbsd:syscall+0x1a5
--- syscall (number 198) ---


[ 161.4877660] panic: LOCKDEBUG: Mutex error: rw_vector_enter,296: spin lock hel
[ 161.4877660] cpu0: Begin traceback...
[ 161.4877660] vpanic() at netbsd:vpanic+0x1fd
[ 161.4877660] snprintf() at netbsd:snprintf
[ 161.4877660] lockdebug_abort1() at netbsd:lockdebug_abort1+0x115
[ 161.4877660] rw_enter() at netbsd:rw_enter+0x645
[ 161.4877660] uvm_fault_internal() at netbsd:uvm_fault_internal+0x1c5
[ 161.4877660] trap() at netbsd:trap+0xa71
[ 161.4877660] --- trap (number 6) ---
[ 161.4877660] config_devalloc() at netbsd:config_devalloc+0x644
[ 161.4877660] config_attach_pseudo() at netbsd:config_attach_pseudo+0x1c
[ 161.4877660] vndopen() at netbsd:vndopen+0x1f3
[ 161.4877660] cdev_open() at netbsd:cdev_open+0x12d
[ 161.4877660] spec_open() at netbsd:spec_open+0x2d0
[ 161.4877660] VOP_OPEN() at netbsd:VOP_OPEN+0xba
[ 161.4877660] vn_open() at netbsd:vn_open+0x434
[ 161.4877660] sys_ktrace() at netbsd:sys_ktrace+0x1ec
[ 161.4877660] sys___syscall() at netbsd:sys___syscall+0x121
[ 161.4877660] syscall() at netbsd:syscall+0x1a5
[ 161.4877660] --- syscall (number 198) ---
[ 161.4877660] 40261a:
[ 161.4877660] cpu0: End traceback...
[ 161.4877660] fatal breakpoint trap in supervisor mode
[ 161.4877660] trap type 1 code 0 rip 0xffffffff8021ddf5 cs 0x8 rflags 0x286 cr2
 0xfffffffffffff800 ilevel 0x8 rsp 0xffff9c80683cd4f0
[ 161.4877660] curlwp 0xfffffcbcda7d36a0 pid 41.1 lowest kstack 0xffff9c80683ca2
db{0}> bt
breakpoint() at netbsd:breakpoint+0x5
vpanic() at netbsd:vpanic+0x1fd
snprintf() at netbsd:snprintf
lockdebug_abort1() at netbsd:lockdebug_abort1+0x115
rw_enter() at netbsd:rw_enter+0x645
uvm_fault_internal() at netbsd:uvm_fault_internal+0x1c5
trap() at netbsd:trap+0xa71
--- trap (number 6) ---
config_devalloc() at netbsd:config_devalloc+0x644
config_attach_pseudo() at netbsd:config_attach_pseudo+0x1c
vndopen() at netbsd:vndopen+0x1f3
cdev_open() at netbsd:cdev_open+0x12d
spec_open() at netbsd:spec_open+0x2d0
VOP_OPEN() at netbsd:VOP_OPEN+0xba
vn_open() at netbsd:vn_open+0x434
sys_ktrace() at netbsd:sys_ktrace+0x1ec
sys___syscall() at netbsd:sys___syscall+0x121
syscall() at netbsd:syscall+0x1a5
--- syscall (number 198) ---


[ 350.9942146] UBSan: Undefined Behavior in /home/ubuntu/triforce/kernel/
src/sys/kern/kern_ktrace.c:1398:2, member access within misaligned address 0x2b0
000002a for type 'struct ktr_desc' which requires 8 byte alignment
[ 351.0025346] uvm_fault(0xffffffff85b73100, 0x2b00000000, 1) -> e
[ 351.0025346] fatal page fault in supervisor mode
[ 351.0025346] trap type 6 code 0 rip 0xffffffff81b9dbf9 cs 0x8 rflags 0x286 cr2
 0x2b00000032 ilevel 0 rsp 0xffff8780684d7fb0
[ 351.0025346] curlwp 0xffffa992128116e0 pid 0.54 lowest kstack 0xffff8780684d42
kernel: page fault trap, code=0
Stopped in pid 0.54 (system) at netbsd:ktrace_thread+0x1fd:     cmpq    %rbx,8(%
db{0}> bt
ktrace_thread() at netbsd:ktrace_thread+0x1fd

Reproducing Crashes

Right now the best way to reproduce a bug detected is to use the Fuzzer’s driver program itself:

./driver -tv < crash_file

The crash_file can be found in the outputs directory and is a custom file format made for the driver.
Memory allocation and Socket Creation remain to be added to the reproducer generator(genRepro) highlighted in the previous post and will be prioritised in the future.


Considering that we have a working fuzzer now, it is a good time to analyse how effective TriforceAFL is compared to other fuzzers.

Recently Syzkaller has been really effective in finding bugs in NetBSD. As shown in the below diagrams, both TriforceAFL and Syzkaller create multiple instances of the system to be fuzzed, gather coverage data, mutate input accordingly and continue fuzzing, but there are several differences in the way they work.





Key differences between the two include:

  • KCOV
    Syzkaller relies on the KCOV module for coverage data in NetBSD whereas TriforceAFL gets coverage information from its modified version of QEMU.
  • VMs
    Syzkaller creates multiple VM’s and manages them with syz-manager. Whereas TriforceAFL simply forks the VM for each testcase.
  • Communication
    Syzkaller uses RPC and ssh to communicate with the VMs whereas TriforceAFL uses a custom hypercall.
  • Hardware Acceleration
    Syzkaller can use hardware acceleration to run the VMs at native speeds, whereas TriforceAFL can only utilize QEMU’s full system emulation mode, as it relies on it for coverage data.

These differences lead to very different results. To get a perspective, here are some stats from syzkaller, which can be found on the syzbot dashboard.

Bugs Found Upstream Fixed
57 37 20

Comparatively in 1st Weekend of Fuzzing:

  Bugs Found
Syzkaller 18
TriforceAFL 3
  • Compared to syzkaller, the number of bugs found by TriforceAFL in the first few days were significantly less, but nevertheless TriforceAFL was able to find variants of bugs found by syzkaller and 1 which was different with simpler reproducers.
  • Going by the stats provided by Syzbot and AFL, Syzkaller does ~80 execs / min whereas TriforceAFL can do ~1500 execs / min on average, Although this statistic is without any of the sanitizers enabled for TriforceAFL and kASan enabled for Syzkaller.
  • TriforceAFL has an advantage when it comes to the fact that it does not rely on KCOV for coverage data. This means it can get coverage data for fuzzing other interfaces easily too. This will be beneficial when we move onto Network and USB Fuzzing. Issues have been found with KCOV where in certain cases the fuzzer lost track of the kernel trace, especially in networking where after enqueuing a networking packet the fuzzer lost track as the packet was then handled by some other thread. Coverage data gathered using TriforceAFL will not be sensitive to this, considering that noise from the kernel is handled in some way to an extent.
  • Efforts were made in the original design of TriforceAFL to make the traces as deterministic as possible at a basic block level. To quote from this article: Sometimes QEMU starts executing a basic block and then gets interrupted. It may then re-execute the block from the start or translate a portion of the block that wasn't yet executed and execute that. This introduced non-determinism. To reduce the non-determinism, cpu-exec.c was altered to disable QEMU's "chaining" feature, and moved AFL's tracing feature to cpu_tb_exec to trace a basic block only after it has been executed to completion. Although nothing has been specifically done to reduce noise from the kernel, such as disabling coverage during interrupts.
  • TriforceAFL runs 1 fuzzing process per instance, whereas Syzkaller can run upto 32 fuzzing processes. But multiple fuzzing instance can be created with TriforceAFL as detailed in this document to take advantage of parallelization.
  • Maxime Villard was also able to rework TriforceNetBSDSyscallFuzzer to now also support compat_netbsd32 kernel. This work will be integrated as soon as possible.
  • On the other hand, Syzkaller has syzbot which can be thought of as a 24/7 fuzzing service. TriforceAFL does not have a such a service or a dedicated server for fuzzing.
    A service like this will surely be advantageous in the future, but it is still a bit too early to set up one. To truly efficiently utilize such a service, it would be better to improve TriforceAFL in all ways possible first.

Targets to be met before a 24/7 fuzzing service is setup, include but are not limited to:

  • Automatic initial Analysis & Report Generation
    Right now, There is nothing that can automatically perform an initial analysis to detect truly unique crashes and prepare reports with backtraces, this will be required and very helpful.
  • Better Reproducers
    As mentioned before, the generated reproducers do not take care of Memory Allocation and Socket Creation, etc. These need to be included, if a good C reproducer is expected.
  • Parallel Fuzzing and Management
    There is no central interface that summarises the statistics from all fuzzing instances, and manages such instances in case of anomalies/errors. Something like this would be needed for a service that will be run for longer periods of time without supervision.
  • Updated AFL and QEMU versions
    Updated AFL and QEMU might significantly increase executions per second and lead to better mutation of inputs and also decrease the memory requirements.
  • Fuzzing more Interfaces
    Right now we are only fuzzing syscalls, Network and USB Layers are great future prospects, at least prototype versions can be added in the near future.

Future Work

Although GSoC will be officially ending, I am looking forward to continuing the development of TriforceAFL, adding features and making it more effective.
Some improvements that can be expected include:

  • Fuzzing different interfaces - Network Fuzzing, USB Fuzzing
  • Updating AFL and QEMU versions
  • Better Reproducers
  • Syzbot like service

A new repo has been created at Collaborative work in the future will be updated here.


TriforceAFL has been successfully adapted for NetBSD and all of the original goals of the GSoC proposal have been met, but the work is far from complete. Work done so far shows great potential, and incremental updates will surely make TriforceAFL a great fuzzer. I am looking forward to continuing the work and making sure that this is the case.
GSoC has been an amazing learning experience! I would like to thank Maxime Villard for taking an active interest in TriforceAFL and for assisting in testing and development. I would like to thank my mentor Kamil Rytarowski for being the guiding force throughout the project and for assisting me whenever I needed help. And finally I would like to thank Google for giving me this wonderful opportunity.



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