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From: "Uecker, Martin" <>
To: "" <>
Cc: "" <>,
	"" <>
Subject: VLAs and security
Date: Sun, 2 Sep 2018 08:08:20 +0000
Message-ID: <> (raw)

I do not agree that VLAs are generally bad for security.
I think the opposite is true. A VLA with the right size
allows the compiler to automatically perform or insert
meaningful bounds checks, while a fixed upper bound does not.

For example:

char buf[N];
buf[n] = 1;

Here, a compiler / analysis tool can for  n < N  using
static analysis or insert a run-time check.

Replacing this with

char buf[MAX_SIZE]

hides the information about the true upper bound
from automatic tools.

Limiting the stack usage can also be achieved in
the following way:

assert(N <= MAX_SIZE)
char buf[N];

Of course, having predictable stack usage might be more 
important in the kernel and might be a good argument
to still prefer the constant bound.

But loosing the tighter bounds is clearly a disadvantage
with respect to security that one should keep it mind.


             reply index

Thread overview: 8+ messages / expand[flat|nested]  mbox.gz  Atom feed  top
2018-09-02  8:08 Uecker, Martin [this message]
2018-09-02 17:40 ` Kees Cook
2018-09-03  7:39   ` Uecker, Martin
2018-09-03 21:28     ` Linus Torvalds
2018-09-04  6:27       ` Uecker, Martin
2018-09-04  8:00         ` Dmitry Vyukov
2018-09-04 18:22           ` Uecker, Martin
2018-09-05  7:35             ` Dmitry Vyukov

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