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Date:   Wed, 26 Jan 2022 19:07:20 +0100
From:   Jann Horn <>
To:     Kees Cook <>
Cc:     Ariadne Conill <>,
        Michael Kerrisk <>,
        Matthew Wilcox <>,
        Christian Brauner <>,
        Rich Felker <>,
        Eric Biederman <>,
        Alexander Viro <>,,,,
Subject: Re: [PATCH] fs/binfmt_elf: Add padding NULL when argc == 0

On Wed, Jan 26, 2022 at 6:58 PM Kees Cook <> wrote:
> Quoting Ariadne Conill:
> "In several other operating systems, it is a hard requirement that the
> first argument to execve(2) be the name of a program, thus prohibiting
> a scenario where argc < 1. POSIX 2017 also recommends this behaviour,
> but it is not an explicit requirement[1]:
>     The argument arg0 should point to a filename string that is
>     associated with the process being started by one of the exec
>     functions.
> ...
> Interestingly, Michael Kerrisk opened an issue about this in 2008[2],
> but there was no consensus to support fixing this issue then.
> Hopefully now that CVE-2021-4034 shows practical exploitative use[3]
> of this bug in a shellcode, we can reconsider."
> An examination of existing[4] users of execve(..., NULL, NULL) shows
> mostly test code, or example rootkit code. While rejecting a NULL argv
> would be preferred, it looks like the main cause of userspace confusion
> is an assumption that argc >= 1, and buggy programs may skip argv[0]
> when iterating. To protect against userspace bugs of this nature, insert
> an extra NULL pointer in argv when argc == 0, so that argv[1] != envp[0].
> Note that this is only done in the argc == 0 case because some userspace
> programs expect to find envp at exactly argv[argc]. The overlap of these
> two misguided assumptions is believed to be zero.

Will this result in the executed program being told that argc==0 but
having an extra NULL pointer on the stack?
If so, I believe this breaks the x86-64 ABI documented at - page 29,
figure 3.9 describes the layout of the initial process stack.

Actually, does this even work? Can a program still properly access its
environment variables when invoked with argc==0 with this patch
applied? AFAIU the way userspace locates envv on x86-64 is by
calculating 8*(argc+1)?

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