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Date:   Wed, 26 Jan 2022 12:42:27 -0600 (CST)
From:   Ariadne Conill <>
To:     Jann Horn <>
cc:     Kees Cook <>,
        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, 26 Jan 2022, Jann Horn wrote:

> 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.

I'm presently compiling a kernel with the patch to see if it works or not.

> 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)?

In the other thread, it was suggested that perhaps we should set up an 
argv of {"", NULL}.  In that case, it seems like it would be safe to claim 
argc == 1.

What do you think?


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