C++ Logo


Advanced search

Re: [SG12] p1315 secure_clear

From: Hubert Tong <hubert.reinterpretcast_at_[hidden]>
Date: Sat, 25 Apr 2020 12:17:32 -0400
On Sat, Apr 25, 2020 at 7:12 AM Niall Douglas via SG12 <
sg12_at_[hidden]> wrote:

> I will apologise in advance Miguel if the following comes across as
> patronising. However I think it would aid you in writing in the
> appropriate terminology in the next revision of P1315. I'll also
> apologise to Core now, for the likely many mistakes I am about to make
> in describing the abstract machine.
Your friends in Core look forward to having you join us in mediating upon
the wording in session **insert soundtrack here** :)

> What 95% of C and C++ programmers write code for is the concrete
> machine. In the concrete machine, all object representations have a well
> defined bit layout. Zapping the bits of an object representation to zero
> eliminates the value of that object. This is what you want in your
> paper. This is what memset_s() does.

Hopefully that's what memset_s does for some version of the object. The
wording for it is, as you said later in your note, rather handwavy.

> This is very straightforward on 99%
> of compilers out there to implement.
As long as the user is happy with clearing only some version of the object.

> The problem is how to codify the same operation into the abstract
> machine: in C++, there are two kinds of object, one is C-ish which is
> treated as a bunch of bits, and the other is C++-ish, and is not treated
> as a bunch of bits. Only the former has any notion of being "clearable",
> because you cannot treat the latter as bits to be cleared without UB.
The paper does have is_trivially_copyable_v<T> in the constraints for the
"C++" interface. Although, the paper should probably suggest why users
either should not want to clear non-trivially-copyable types or suggest how
(perhaps with an array that provides storage) to clear types that are not
trivially copyable. The paper should probably also make some mention of
whether there are meaningful semantics for the function in constant
expression evaluation (such as causing the lifetime of all objects that are
pointer interconvertible with the object designated by the argument to end).

> [ ... ]
> The idea behind my ensure_stores() proposal was a bit of a hack: it is
> an intrinsic to tell the compiler "assume stores to this region have
> escaped". All compilers already implement this intrinsic, it is better
> known as "calling an extern function", so implementation is trivially
> easy, and the reference implementation library for ensure_stores() is
> literally calling an extern function which the compiler can never Link
> Time Optimise. ensure_stores() is effectively a "fsync()" for the
> compiler, forcing it to write out the current bit representation to the
> escaped region now. The big advantage of this is that the compiler is
> free to optimise maximally before ensure_stores(), so performance is
> way, way better than volatile.
@Herring, Davis <herring_at_[hidden]>, I thought you had tried to do work in
this area in relation to contracts. If I recall correctly, this was around
the San Diego meeting.

[off-topic note] Someone recently said that our naming of Wikis by venue is
unhelpful. Yet, I find that it tends to be easier to recall conversations
from meetings based on the scenery outside the window, the weather, or the

> [ ... ]
> There is no problem, in theory, with marking all clear-on-delete objects
> as volatile. However, in a concrete machine, that leads to dire
> performance. So what we really need here are "constrained volatile
> object optimisation", specifically:
> - Dead store elimination is permitted, except at certain "fsync moments"
> - Write combining is permitted, except at certain "fsync moments"
> - Write and read reordering is permitted, except at certain "fsync moments"
> I have no idea how to phrase that in a wording acceptable to Core. But
> that seems to be the only remaining path forwards which nobody has
> attempted yet.
I'm not sure that nobody has attempt this yet, but I'm not sure where those
attempts went.

> I wish you good luck in your endeavours, and for the record, thank you
> for investing your effort to date as this is a problem which is holding
> up a ton of other stuff, far far wider than bit clearing (think shared
> memory, object serialisation to mapped memory, etc).
... statement attributes for breakpoints and some interpretations of what
contracts should do in the vicinity of the check or of the handler.

Received on 2020-04-25 11:20:46