[GSoC] KASan in Coreboot

Hello everyone, I am Abdullah and I am one of the GSoC students for 2019. My project is to implement kernel address sanitizer (KASAN) in coreboot. My mentor for this project is Werner Zeh. He has been extremely helpful throughout by guiding me whenever I got stuck, answering my questions and reviewing my patches. I want to thank him for his support.


KASan is a dynamic memory error detector designed by developers at Google. KASan can find use-after-free and out-of-bound errors. Implementing KASan in coreboot will help detect these errors in coreboot. KASan works by keeping a shadow memory that records whether each byte is safe to access. Shadow memory is nothing but a part of memory set aside to map each byte of accessible memory with a bit. This means that the size of shadow memory would be 1/8 of the total accessible memory. Compile-time instrumentation is used to insert checks before each memory access. If an illegitimate memory access is found, it is reported by KASan. This feature can help to detect hard to find errors like stack overflows and overwritten pointers that are used for memory access at runtime.


KASan in coreboot is not as straightforward as in Linux kernel and it has many issues in this context. Coreboot implementation varies for different architectures. It also consists of stages that have different source languages and code/heap memory location. This means that both the accessible memory and shadow memory locations are not fixed. In some cases, memory is very limited, not giving any space for shadow memory (like bootblock or even romstage at times). These are the highlights of the problems we have to deal with when adding KASan to coreboot.


We started off by implementing KASan in the relatively easier stage i.e. ramstage. Ramstage has the benefit of using DRAM available. This means we have enough memory to implement our shadow memory and we are even free to place the ramstage on the same address across several platforms. The later you cannot do for example with stages that execute out of cache. The ramstage code is still in the process of review and I will share it once it is done.