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SubjectRe: [PATCH v4 43/45] namei: initialize parameters passed to step_into()
On Fri, Jul 1, 2022 at 7:25 AM Alexander Potapenko <> wrote:
> Under certain circumstances initialization of `unsigned seq` and
> `struct inode *inode` passed into step_into() may be skipped.
> In particular, if the call to lookup_fast() in walk_component()
> returns NULL, and lookup_slow() returns a valid dentry, then the
> `seq` and `inode` will remain uninitialized until the call to
> step_into() (see [1] for more info).

So while I think this needs to be fixed, I think I'd really prefer to
make the initialization and/or usage rules stricter or at least

For example, looking around, I think "handle_dotdot()" has the exact
same kind of issue, where follow_dotdot[_rcu|() doesn't initialize
seq/inode for certain cases, and it's *really* hard to see exactly
what the rules are.

It turns out that the rules are that seq/inode only get initialized if
these routines return a non-NULL and non-error result.

Now, that is true for all of these cases - both follow_dotdot*() and
lookup_fast(). Possibly others.

But the reason follow_dotdot*() doesn't cause the same issue is that
the caller actually does the checks that avoid it, and doesn't pass
down the uninitialized cases.

Now, the other part of the rule is that they only get _used_ for
LOOKUP_RCU cases, where they are used to validate the lookup after
we've finalized things.

Of course, sometimes the "only get used for LOOKUP_RCU" is very very
unclear, because even without being an RCU lookup, step_into() will
save it into nd->inode/seq. So the values were "used", and
initializing them makes them valid, but then *that* copy must not then
be used unless RCU was set.

Also, sometimes the LOOKUP_RCU check is in the caller, and has
actually been cleared, so by the time the actual use comes around, you
just have to trust that it was a RCU lookup (ie

So it all seems to work, and this patch then gets rid of one
particular odd case, but I think this patch basically hides the
compiler warning without really clarifying the code or the rules.

Anyway, what I'm building up to here is that I think we should
*document* this a bit more. and then make those initializations then
be about that documentation. I also get the feeling that
"nd->inode/nd->seq" should also be initialized.

Right now we have those quite subtle rules about "set vs use", and
while a lot of the uses are conditional on LOOKUP_RCU, that makes the
code correct, but doesn't solve the "pass uninitialized values as
arguments" case.

I also think it's very unclear when nd->inode/nd->seq are initialized,
and the compiler warning only caught the case where they were *set*
(but by arguments that weren't initialized), but didn't necessarily
catch the case where they weren't set at all in the first place and
then passed around.

End result:

- I think I'd like path_init() (or set_nameidata) to actually
initialize nd->inode and nd->seq unconditionally too.

Right now, they get initialized only for that LOOKUP_RCU case.
Pretty much exactly the same issue as the one this patch tries to
solve, except the compiler didn't notice because it's all indirect
through those structure fields and it just didn't track far enough.

- I suspect it would be good to initialize them to actual invalid
values (rather than NULL/0 - particularly the sequence number)

- I look at that follow_dotdot*() caller case, and think "that looks
very similar to the lookup_fast() case, but then we have *very*
different initialization rules".

Al - can you please take a quick look?


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