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Date:   Mon, 19 Dec 2022 11:41:11 -0500
From:   "Theodore Ts'o" <>
To:     Jun Nie <>
Subject: Re: [PATCH v1] ext4: Remove deprecated noacl/nouser_xattr options

On Mon, Dec 19, 2022 at 05:23:18PM +0800, Jun Nie wrote:
> Do you mean we have a chance to expand ea_inode in place for some
> cases? If so, a new ea_inode with larger space should be created
> to hold expanded ea_inode data, thus data have to be copied and written
> out through memory in my mind. Or anything other than CPU/memory can
> utilized for this to avoid memory usage, such as DMA?

There are two inodes in question here.  The first is the base inode,
which in this case is /file0.  The second is the ea_inode which stores
the value of one of the extended attributes.  In the syzkaller fuzzed
file system, there is an ea_inode field which is already created; it
contains a value which is too large to fit in the inode or the
extended attribute block; but that's OK, because we can put it in a
ea_inode.  Unfortunately, we are unnecessarily created and deleting
the ea_inode (which contains the xattr *value*) when we move the xattr
from in-inode storage to the external xattr block.

Extended attributes can be stored either in the on-disk inode, or in
an extended attribute block.  The storage in the on-disk inode is
limited, but extended attributes stored don't require a random access
4k read as in the case of the extended attribute block.  So we try to
store extended attributes in the inode if possible --- especially the
ones which might be accessed frequently, such as a POSIX ACL or a
SELinux security id.

The ext4 inode is composed of two portions.  The base 128 byte inode,
which is always present, and which is what was originally used in
ext2.  And the "extra inode fields", which are these fields as
currently defined at the end of struct ext4_inode:

	__le16	i_extra_isize;
	__le16	i_checksum_hi;	/* crc32c(uuid+inum+inode) BE */
	__le32  i_ctime_extra;  /* extra Change time      (nsec << 2 | epoch) */
	__le32  i_mtime_extra;  /* extra Modification time(nsec << 2 | epoch) */
	__le32  i_atime_extra;  /* extra Access time      (nsec << 2 | epoch) */
	__le32  i_crtime;       /* File Creation time */
	__le32  i_crtime_extra; /* extra FileCreationtime (nsec << 2 | epoch) */
	__le32  i_version_hi;	/* high 32 bits for 64-bit version */
	__le32	i_projid;	/* Project ID */

The i_extra_isize is the field that is always present for inodes
larger than 128 bytes and for which the ext4 file system feature
EXT4_FEATURE_RO_COMPAT_EXTRA_ISIZE is enabled.  The i_extra_isize
field tells us how many of the fields beyond the first 128 are
present.  These fields are necessary for various "advanced" (newer
than ext2) ext4 features, including metadata checksums, support for
dates beyond 2038 and sub-second timestamp granularity, file creation
time, 64-bit i_version, and the project id for project quotas.
Everything beyond i_extra_isize is used for in-inode extended

Now, what if we need to add extra space for new ext4 features?  Well,
ext4 has a way of expanding the extra inode fields, and one of the
ways to trigger this is via the debugging mount option,
debug_want_extra_isize.  In this particular syzbot reproducer, the
mount option, "debug_want_extra_isize=128" sets the i_extra_isize
field to maximum allowable size for a 256 byte inode size, and this
means that all extended attributes should be ejected out from in-inode
storage to the external extended attribute block.  We do this on a
best efforts bases, when a modified inode is written back to the disk.

The lazytime mount option delays inode updates until the very last
minute.  The reason for this is to avoid multiple writes to the inode
table blocks.  This improves performance by reducing random 4k writes,
and for flash based storage, reducing flash wearout for flash-based
storage.  For hard drives (HDD's), it reducing random 4k writes
reduces the need to perform Adjacent Track Interference (ATI)
mitigations.  ATI mitigations can significantly increase the 99.9
percentile tail latency on file system operations, and decreasing tail
latency can be worth $$$ for some use cases[1].


The downside of using lazytime updates is that on a crash, the inode
timestamps might not get updated --- but very often, this is not a big
deal.  And normally, when some other inode in the same inode table
block is updated, we take that opportunity to update all of the
timestamps that were deferred.  Or, in the worst case, this will get
delayed until the file system is unounted.

Now, back to the extra space expansion.  Eexpanding to allow extra
inode fields to be used in the future is a "nice to have" sort of
thing.  It can fail for a number of reasons, including there not being
enough space in the extended attribute block to evict the extended
attributes in the inode; or if the file system is full, we might not
be able to allocate an external block for the extended attribute block
in the first place.

So it's OK for us to simply pass on making space for the extra inode
fields if it turns out we happen to be in the process of unmounting
file system.  However, that doesn't fix the performance problem of
unnecessarily deleting and creating the ea_inode when moving the xattr
from the inode to the exernal xattr block.  So fixing that performance
issue is the ideal solution.  Simply passing on the extra_isize
expansion is the second best issue.  Backporting an unrelated fix[2]
which papers over the problem by disallowing the mount option
nouser_xattr is the worst option, since it doesn't actually fix the
underlying file system bug.

[2] commit 2d544ec923dbe5 ("ext4: remove deprecated noacl/nouser_xattr

Backporting [2] will shut up the syzbot reproducer, yes.  But that's
because the syzbot reproducer was inadequately minimized.  *This*
reproducer, which is a easier for a human to understand and which is
appropriately minimized will trigger exact same issue, with or without

#!/bin/bash -vx
# This reproduces an ext4 bug caused by an unfortunate interaction
# between lazytime updates happening when a file system is being
# unmounted and expand_extra_isize
# Initially discovered via syzkaller:

rm -f $img
mke2fs -Fq -t ext4 -I 256 -O ea_inode -b 1024 $img 200k
mount $img $dir
v=$(dd if=/dev/zero bs=2000 count=1 2>/dev/null | tr '\0' =)
touch $file
attr -q -s test -V $v $file
umount $dir
mount -o debug_want_extra_isize=128,lazytime /tmp/foo.img $dir
cat $file
umount $dir

This is why your proposal to backport commit 2d544ec923dbe5 is not the
right answer.

> per general understanding of a subsystem uninitialization, a flag
> shall be marked to reject further operation on the sub-system and
> flush the pending operation, then free the resource. In such a
> general method, current handling to create a new ea_inode should not
> crash even it is stupid.  sb->s_root seems to be a key global
> resource in ext4 subsystem per my understanding, and should not be
> set as NULL until the last step of unmount operation.

That's true in general.  And yes, simply bypassing the extra_isize
expansion when the file system is being unmounted is certainly better
that backporting the unrelated commit[2].  But the true correct fix is
to optimize how we migrate the xattr from the in-inode storage to the
external xattr block.

This is also at *best* P2 bug, since (a) it's not real security issue;
just a null pointer derference, and there is no way this could be
leveraged into any kind of denial of service or privilege escalation
attack, and (b) it requires root access, and use of a debugging option
to enable a code path which is in practice never used in production.
It is a syzkaller report, and unfortunately, there seems to be this
assumption that all syzkaller issues are P0 or P1 issues that must be
remediated right away.  Which is not the case in this instance.  It's
a real bug, and so it should be fixed; but it's not a high priority

That being said, if you'd like ot become more experienced in a portion
of ext4 internals, I'd certainly invite you to try to understand how
ext4 extended attributes are managed, and try your hand at fixing this

Best regards,

						- Ted

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