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Subject: Re: p1315 secure_clear
From: Gabriel Dos Reis (gdr_at_[hidden])
Date: 2020-05-04 06:47:36

Right. The fundamental question is how to express *secure interpretation* (this includes compilation) of a C++ program.

As many have observed, this is an issue with how we formulate the as-if rule of the abstract machine. So instead of piecemeal addition of wobbly functions, the question that WG21 (and SG12) should address is "secure interpretation" *policy* that has to apply to the program as a whole - not just one function in isolation.
(A function by itself isn't secure.) Such a policy would then be a parameter of the abstract machine. Think a switch to the compiler. Which reflects reality.

-- Gaby

From: SG12 <sg12-bounces_at_[hidden]> on behalf of Richard Smith via SG12 <sg12_at_[hidden]>
Sent: Thursday, April 30, 2020 10:51:42 AM
To: sg12_at_[hidden] <sg12_at_[hidden]>
Cc: Richard Smith <richardsmith_at_[hidden]>; miguel_at_[hidden] <miguel_at_[hidden]>; Miguel Ojeda <miguel.ojeda.sandonis_at_[hidden]>; Jeffrey Yasskin <jyasskin_at_[hidden]>; Paul McKenney <paulmck_at_[hidden]>; JF Bastien <jfbastien_at_[hidden]>
Subject: Re: [SG12] p1315 secure_clear

On Thu, 30 Apr 2020, 07:39 Arthur O'Dwyer via SG12, <sg12_at_[hidden]<mailto:sg12_at_[hidden]>> wrote:
On Thu, Apr 30, 2020 at 2:19 AM Jens Maurer <Jens.Maurer_at_[hidden]<mailto:Jens.Maurer_at_[hidden]>> wrote:
On 30/04/2020 02.10, Arthur O'Dwyer via SG12 wrote:
> It's easy to ensure that an operation */is/* performed; all you have to do is insert an optimization barrier like Google Benchmark's DoNotOptimize, which is basically an `asm volatile("")` statement.

Paul's P1382<https://nam06.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.open-std.org%2Fjtc1%2Fsc22%2Fwg21%2Fdocs%2Fpapers%2F2019%2Fp1382r1.pdf&data=02%7C01%7Cgdr%40microsoft.com%7C2d5be195c9bc4177b96508d7ed2f427d%7C72f988bf86f141af91ab2d7cd011db47%7C1%7C0%7C637238660498330807&sdata=N7lvvwqU71HDEsFnKWjhtFLHMZCKtE%2BwLUCnPMJ9zNw%3D&reserved=0> is much easier in this regard, and very close to traditional volatile semantics.

I wouldn't call P1382 "easier" on the human programmer; it's a lot more fiddly than a simple "escape" or "DoNotOptimize" function that can fence any side-effect at all. But it's certainly close to traditional `volatile`.

The equivalent of `memset(passwordbuffer, 0x00, sizeof passwordbuffer)` under P1382 would be
    char passwordbuffer[100];
    for (auto& ch : passwordbuffer) {
        volatile_store(&ch, '\0'); // note that volatile_store(&ch, 0) would not compile, and I think that's too bad
although I think P1382 needs to explicitly explain whether
    char sequence_of_zeros[100] = {};
    std::volatile_store<char[100]>(&passwordbuffer, sequence_of_zeros);
is intended to be supported. (I predict it's not supported, because SD-8<https://nam06.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fisocpp.org%2Fstd%2Fstanding-documents%2Fsd-8-standard-library-compatibility&data=02%7C01%7Cgdr%40microsoft.com%7C2d5be195c9bc4177b96508d7ed2f427d%7C72f988bf86f141af91ab2d7cd011db47%7C1%7C0%7C637238660498330807&sdata=FfDvVnHSy4e5n%2F8MuP9bWNb13dyVws4lIMnTmP2ow%2FY%3D&reserved=0>, but I'd like to see it in writing in the paper.)

Tony Van Eerd suggests:
> a function: volatile_clear(void *ptr, int size), that does volatile writes of 0 into the memory.
> Is this a worthwhile step?

IMHO that would be a useful addition to P1382 (given the fiddliness of using `volatile_store` as shown above).
I would even call it `volatile_memset` with the appropriate signature, since we have prior art for memset.

Niall Douglas suggests:
> I'd gladly take into the standard an:
> assume_escaped(const byte *, size_t);
> I can build stuff on top of that.

That signature should be simply `void assume_escaped(const void*)`. The `size_t` parameter is pointless, because the entire point of this function (from the compiler's point of view) is that everything reachable from that pointer must be assumed to have escaped.
    int a[2];
    int *p = &a[0];
    int *q = &a[1];
Those two lines should have the same effect from the compiler's point of view, since the memory at `*p` is also reachable via the expression `*(q-1)`. If `q` escapes into a-function-that-the-compiler-doesn't-know-what-it-does, then the compiler must assume that `*(q-1)` might be read by that function.
Here is Google's `DoNotOptimize(const T&)`.<https://nam06.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fgithub.com%2Fgoogle%2Fbenchmark%2Fblob%2Fmaster%2Finclude%2Fbenchmark%2Fbenchmark.h%23L307-L345&data=02%7C01%7Cgdr%40microsoft.com%7C2d5be195c9bc4177b96508d7ed2f427d%7C72f988bf86f141af91ab2d7cd011db47%7C1%7C0%7C637238660498340798&sdata=N9KzX8ky255UTCrqwJpOzZudlorXXTfEIgCioGTtsOg%3D&reserved=0>
If we had a simple DoNotOptimize-style library function, we wouldn't need `volatile_store` for Miguel's purpose. But I believe Paul wants `volatile_store` for more "lock-free atomic access patterns" kinds of things; `volatile_store` has other benefits for his domain, such as non-tearing.

> memset(passwordbuffer, 0x00, sizeof passwordbuffer);
> DoNotOptimize(&passwordbuffer); // escape this variable to force the memset to be respected
> What secure_clear is trying to do is to ensure that a "sufficiently dumb compiler" does not compile the above code into the equivalent of
> char *secondcopy = strdup(passwordbuffer); free(secondcopy); // oops, leaked a copy of the data onto the heap
> static char secondcopy[100]; strcpy(secondcopy, passwordbuffer); // oops, leaked a copy of the data into the data section
> memset(passwordbuffer, 0x00, sizeof passwordbuffer);
> DoNotOptimize(&passwordbuffer); // the memset is respected, but useless

And then, the compiler does
      strcpy(passwordbuffer, secondcopy);
rigbt before "passwordbuffer" ends its lifetime. Also undesirable and
totally defeating the purpose, but fine under the status quo as-if rule.

Sure; but my point was that the purpose of "not leaking the secret" has already been defeated, even if the compiler doesn't do what you said. As soon as the very first copy is made, the security has gone out the window. And those copies can be made under the as-if rule.

Right. Rather than pursuing an option that we don't know of any way to extend to being an actually secure clear mechanism, we should find some way to express the actually desired semantics of "don't leak the secret stuff".

For example, suppose we had a function attribute:


... with no normative semantics (because it has no effect on the abstract machine), but with recommended behaviour that it ensures to the extent possible that data used in the function is not accessible after it terminates, by any means -- in particular, that any stack space or registers used by the function are cleared when the function returns or propagates an exception. That seems implementable, and seems like it would actually give the desired depth of protection.

We'd still need some way to securely clear heap allocations. Maybe the proposed std::secure_clear function would be useful for that, but there might be an argument that what we actually want is a secure allocator. For example, maybe you don't want your secrets written to a page file -- we could take care of that for the stack automatically via the function attribute, but probably not for the heap if the regular allocator is used. And you probably don't want a read-after-free elsewhere in your program to be able to read your secure secrets, which would be the case if you used the regular allocator.

> The above is permitted today under the as-if rule; but secure_clear is asking for some way to /*ensure, formally,*/ that it /*never */happens.
> Ensuring that something /doesn't /happen is much much harder than ensuring that it /does /happen.


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