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Date: Fri, 1 Dec 2023 10:45:05 -0800
From: Jakub Kicinski <>
To: Kees Cook <>
Cc: kernel test robot <>, "David S. Miller"
 <>, Eric Dumazet <>, Paolo Abeni
 <>, Johannes Berg <>, Jeff
 Johnson <>, Michael Walle <>, Max
 Schulze <>,,,,
Subject: Re: [PATCH] netlink: Return unsigned value for nla_len()

On Fri, 1 Dec 2023 10:17:02 -0800 Kees Cook wrote:
> > > -static inline int nla_len(const struct nlattr *nla)
> > > +static inline u16 nla_len(const struct nlattr *nla)
> > >  {
> > > -	return nla->nla_len - NLA_HDRLEN;
> > > +	return nla->nla_len > NLA_HDRLEN ? nla->nla_len - NLA_HDRLEN : 0;
> > >  }  
> > 
> > Note the the NLA_HDRLEN is the length of struct nlattr.
> > I mean of the @nla object that gets passed in as argument here.
> > So accepting that nla->nla_len may be < NLA_HDRLEN means
> > that we are okay with dereferencing a truncated object...
> > 
> > We can consider making the return unsinged without the condition maybe?  
> Yes, if we did it without the check, it'd do "less" damage on
> wrap-around. (i.e. off by U16_MAX instead off by INT_MAX).
> But I'd like to understand: what's the harm in adding the clamp? The
> changes to the assembly are tiny:

Hm, I wonder if my explanation was unclear or you disagree..

This is the structure:

struct nlattr {
	__u16           nla_len; // attr len, incl. this header
	__u16           nla_type;

and (removing no-op wrappers):

#define NLA_HDRLEN	sizeof(struct nlattr)

So going back to the code:

	return nla->nla_len > NLA_HDRLEN ? nla->nla_len - NLA_HDRLEN...

We are reading nla->nla_len, which is the first 2 bytes of the structure.
And then we check if the structure is... there?

If we don't trust that struct nlattr which gets passed here is at least
NLA_HDRLEN (4B) then why do we think it's safe to read nla_len (the
first 2B of it)?

That's why I was pointing at nla_ok(). nla_ok() takes the size of the
buffer / message as an arg, so that it can also check if looking at
nla_len itself is not going to be an OOB access. 99% of netlink buffers
we parse come from user space. So it's not like someone could have
mis-initialized the nla_len in the kernel and being graceful is helpful.

The extra conditional is just a minor thing. The major thing is that
unless I'm missing something the check makes me go 🤨️

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