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Subject[RFC PATCH] packet: mark ring entry as in-use inside spin_lock to prevent RX ring overrun
Fix PACKET_RX_RING bug for versions TPACKET_V1 and TPACKET_V2 which
casues the ring to get corrupted by allowing multiple kernel threads
to claim ownership of the same ring entry, Mark the ring entry as
already being used within the spin_lock to prevent other kernel
threads from reusing the same entry before it's fully filled in,
passed to user space, and then eventually passed back to the kernel
for use with a new packet.

Note that the proposed change may modify the semantics of the
interface between kernel space and user space in a way which may cause
some applications to no longer work properly. More discussion on this
change can be found in the additional comments section titled
"3. Discussion on packet_mmap ownership semantics:".

Signed-off-by: Jon Rosen <>

Additional Comments Section

1. Description of the diffs:

TPACKET_V1 and TPACKET_V2 format rings:
Mark each entry as TP_STATUS_IN_PROGRESS after allocating to
prevent other kernel threads from re-using the same entry.

This is necessary because there may be a delay from the time the
spin_lock is released to the time that the packet is completed and
the corresponding ring entry is marked as owned by user space. If
during this time other kernel threads enqueue more packets to the
ring than the size of the ring then it will cause mutliple kernel
threads to operate on the same entry at the same time, corrupting
packets and the ring state.

By marking the entry as allocated (IN_PROGRESS) we prevent other
kernel threads from incorrectly re-using an entry that is still in
the progress of being filled in before it is passed to user space.

This forces each entry through the following states:

+-> 1. (tp_status == TP_STATUS_KERNEL)
| Free: For use by any kernel thread to store a new packet
| 2. !(tp_status == TP_STATUS_KERNEL) && !(tp_status & TP_STATUS_USER)
| Allocated: In use by a *specific* kernel thread
| 3. (tp_status & TP_STATUS_USER)
| Available: Packet available for user space to process
+-- Loop back to #1 when user space writes entry as TP_STATUS_KERNEL

No impact on TPACKET_V3 format rings:
Packet entry ownership is already protected from other kernel
threads potentially re-using the same entry. This is done inside
packet_current_rx_frame() where storage is allocated for the
current packet. Since this is done within the spin_lock no
additional status updates for this entry are required.

Rather than defining a new-bit we re-use an existing bit for this
intermediate state. Status will eventually be overwritten with the
actual true status when passed to user space. Any bit used to pass
information to user space other than the one that passes ownership
is suitable (can't use TP_STATUS_USER). Alternatively a new bit
could be defined.

2. More detailed discussion:
Ring entries basically have 2 states, owned by the kernel or owned by
user space. For single producer/single consumer this works fine. For
multiple producers there is a window between the call to spin_unlock
[F] and the call to __packet_set_status [J] where if there are enough
packets added to the ring by other kernel threads then the ring can
wrap and multiple threads will end up using the same ring entries.

This occurs because the ring entry alocated at [C] did not modify the
state of the entry so it continues to appear as owned by the kernel
and available for use for new packets even though it has already been

A simple fix is to temporarily mark the ring entries within the spin
lock such that user space will still think it?s owned by the kernel
and other kernel threads will not see it as available to be used for
new packets. If a kernel thread gets delayed between [F] and [J] for
an extended period of time and the ring wraps back to the same point
then subsiquent kernel threads attempts to allocate will fail and be
treated as the ring being full.

The change below at [D] uses a newly defined TP_STATUS_IN_PROGRESS bit
to prevent other kernel threads from re-using the same entry. Note that
any existing bit other than TP_STATUS_USER could have been used.

... code removed for brevity ...

// Acquire spin lock
A: spin_lock(&sk->sk_receive_queue.lock);

// Preemption is disabled

// Get current ring entry
B: h.raw = packet_current_rx_frame(
po, skb, TP_STATUS_KERNEL, (macoff+snaplen));

// Get out if ring is full
// Code not show but it will also release lock
if (!h.raw) goto ring_is_full;

// Allocate ring entry
C: packet_increment_rx_head(po, &po->rx_ring);

// Protect against allocation overrun (the simple fix)
D: if (po->tp_version <= TPACKET_V2)
__packet_set_status(po, h.raw, TP_STATUS_IN_PROGRESS);

// Update counter
E: po->stats.stats1.tp_packets++;

// Release spin lock
F: spin_unlock(&sk->sk_receive_queue.lock);

// Copy packet payload
G: skb_copy_bits(skb, 0, h.raw + macoff, snaplen);

// Get current timestamp
H: if (!(ts_status = tpacket_get_timestamp(skb, &ts, po->tp_tstamp)))
status |= ts_status;

// Fill in header portions of ring entry (removed a bunch of
// writes for brevity)
h.h1->tp_sec = ts.tv_sec;
h.h1->tp_usec = ts.tv_nsec / NSEC_PER_USEC;
sll->sll_halen = dev_parse_header(skb, sll->sll_addr);

// Memory Barrier to make sure all data is written before
// passing ownership to user space
I: smp_mb();

// Update Status, passing ownership to user space
J: __packet_set_status(po, h.raw, status | TP_STATUS_USER);

3. Discussion on packet_mmap ownership semantics:
One issue with the above proposed change to use TP_STATUS_IN_PROGRESS
is that the documentation of the tp_status field is somewhat
inconsistent. In some places it's described as TP_STATUS_KERNEL(0)
meaning the entry is owned by the kernel and !TP_STATUS_KERNEL(0)
meaning the entry is owned by user space. In other places ownership
by user space is defined by the TP_STATUS_USER(1) bit being set.

Relevant section of packet_mmap documentation from
follow but a summary of the semantics in question are described as:

- At the beginning of each frame there is an status field
- If this field is 0 means that the frame is ready to be
used for the kernel
- If not, there is a frame the user can read

This would indicate that 0 means owned by the kernel and non-0 is
owned by the user. The simple fix above is to set the status to
something that neither the kernel nor the user thinks they own. That
means that 0 vs. non-0 would be insufficient.

The description and examples in packet_mmap.txt actually talk about
using a specific bit, the TP_STATUS_USER bit, to indicate something is
owned by the kernel vs something is owned by the user. The relevant
references from packet_mmap.txt to this bit are:

- The kernel initializes all frames to TP_STATUS_KERNEL(0)
- when the kernel receives a packet it puts in the buffer and
updates the status with at least the TP_STATUS_USER(1) flag

This description contradicts the previous description which implied
that non-0 means owned by the user. In the above statement it implies
that there needs to be more than just non-0 and that the
TP_STATUS_USER bit must be set for it to be owned by user space.

If the above proposed fix of using a new TP_STATUS_IN_PROGRESS bit (or
any existing bit other than TP_STATUS_USER) were to be used and an
application were written assuming !TP_STATUS_KERNEL implies owned by
user space then the application would incorrectly assume there was a
valid packet entry to be processed when the entry is not ready. If an
application were instead written to look specificaly for
TP_STATUS_USER then the above proposed fix would work correctly.

A more complex solution might be to create a shadow data structure
which is private to the kernel and keeps status bits for each ring
entry to indicate the intermediate state between owned by kernel and
owned by user space.

4. Snipet from packet_mmap.txt
At the beginning of each frame there is an status field (see
struct tpacket_hdr). If this field is 0 means that the frame is ready
to be used for the kernel, If not, there is a frame the user can read
and the following flags apply:

+++ Capture process:
from include/linux/if_packet.h

#define TP_STATUS_COPY (1 << 1)
#define TP_STATUS_LOSING (1 << 2)
#define TP_STATUS_CSUM_VALID (1 << 7)

TP_STATUS_COPY : This flag indicates that the frame (and associated
meta information) has been truncated because it's
larger than tp_frame_size. This packet can be
read entirely with recvfrom().

In order to make this work it must to be
enabled previously with setsockopt() and

The number of frames that can be buffered to
be read with recvfrom is limited like a normal socket.
See the SO_RCVBUF option in the socket (7) man page.

TP_STATUS_LOSING : indicates there were packet drops from last time
statistics where checked with getsockopt() and

TP_STATUS_CSUMNOTREADY: currently it's used for outgoing IP packets which
its checksum will be done in hardware. So while
reading the packet we should not try to check the

TP_STATUS_CSUM_VALID : This flag indicates that at least the transport
header checksum of the packet has been already
validated on the kernel side. If the flag is not set
then we are free to check the checksum by ourselves
provided that TP_STATUS_CSUMNOTREADY is also not set.

for convenience there are also the following defines:

#define TP_STATUS_USER 1

The kernel initializes all frames to TP_STATUS_KERNEL, when the kernel
receives a packet it puts in the buffer and updates the status with
at least the TP_STATUS_USER flag. Then the user can read the packet,
once the packet is read the user must zero the status field, so the kernel
can use again that frame buffer.

The user can use poll (any other variant should apply too) to check if new
packets are in the ring:

struct pollfd pfd;

pfd.fd = fd;

if (status == TP_STATUS_KERNEL)
retval = poll(&pfd, 1, timeout);

It doesn't incur in a race condition to first check the status value and
then poll for frames.

5. Snipet from man pages for packet(7):

See portion marked with "***" for reference to use of TP_STATUS_USER bit.


Create a memory-mapped ring buffer for asynchronous
packet reception. The packet socket reserves a
contiguous region of application address space, lays it
out into an array of packet slots and copies packets (up
to tp_snaplen) into subsequent slots. Each packet is
preceded by a metadata structure similar to
tpacket_auxdata. The protocol fields encode the offset
to the data from the start of the metadata header.
tp_net stores the offset to the network layer. If the
packet socket is of type SOCK_DGRAM, then tp_mac is the
same. If it is of type SOCK_RAW, then that field stores
the offset to the link-layer frame. Packet socket and
application communi? cate the head and tail of the ring
through the tp_status field. The packet socket owns all
slots with tp_status equal to TP_STATUS_KERNEL. After
filling a slot, it changes the status of the slot to
*** transfer ownership to the application. During normal
*** operation, the new tp_status value has at least the
*** TP_STATUS_USER bit set to signal that a received packet
*** has been stored. When the application has finished
processing a packet, it transfers ownership of the slot
back to the socket by setting tp_status equal to

Packet sockets implement multiple variants of the packet
ring. The implementation details are described in
Documentation/networking/packet_mmap.txt in the Linux
kernel source tree.

6. Relevant files:

Jon Rosen (1):
packet: mark ring entry as in-use inside spin_lock to prevent RX ring

net/packet/af_packet.c | 9 +++++++++
1 file changed, 9 insertions(+)

diff --git a/net/packet/af_packet.c b/net/packet/af_packet.c
index e0f3f4a..264d7b2 100644
--- a/net/packet/af_packet.c
+++ b/net/packet/af_packet.c
@@ -2287,6 +2287,15 @@ static int tpacket_rcv(struct sk_buff *skb, struct net_device *dev,
if (po->stats.stats1.tp_drops)
+ /*
+ * Mark this entry as TP_STATUS_IN_PROGRESS to prevent other
+ * kernel threads from re-using this same entry.
+ */
+ if (po->tp_version <= TPACKET_V2)
+ __packet_set_status(po, h.raw, TP_STATUS_IN_PROGRESS);
if (copy_skb) {
status |= TP_STATUS_COPY;
 \ /
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