Inexplicable PROT_EXEC flag set on mmap callback

Kenneth Adam Miller kennethadammiller at
Sat Jan 16 12:45:17 EST 2016

I got the strace output of my non-C binary (I filtered the noise out of the
output for you):


I also have readelf -l output:

Elf file type is EXEC (Executable file)
Entry point 0x401311
There are 7 program headers, starting at offset 64

Program Headers:
  Type           Offset             VirtAddr           PhysAddr
                 FileSiz            MemSiz              Flags  Align
  LOAD           0x0000000000000000 0x0000000000400000 0x0000000000400000
                 0x00000000000db604 0x00000000000db604  R E    1000
  LOAD           0x00000000000dc1c0 0x00000000004dd1c0 0x00000000004dd1c0
                 0x0000000000006220 0x00000000000091dc  RW     1000
  NOTE           0x00000000000001c8 0x00000000004001c8 0x00000000004001c8
                 0x0000000000000024 0x0000000000000024  R      4
  GNU_EH_FRAME   0x00000000000d5680 0x00000000004d5680 0x00000000004d5680
                 0x0000000000005f84 0x0000000000005f84  R      4
  GNU_STACK      0x0000000000000000 0x0000000000000000 0x0000000000000000
                 0x0000000000000000 0x0000000000000000  RWE    0
  TLS            0x00000000000dc1c0 0x00000000004dd1c0 0x00000000004dd1c0
                 0x0000000000000100 0x0000000000000100  R      10
  GNU_RELRO      0x00000000000dc1c0 0x00000000004dd1c0 0x00000000004dd1c0
                 0x0000000000005e40 0x0000000000005e40  RW     20

 Section to Segment mapping:
  Segment Sections...
   00 .init .text .fini .gcc_except_table .rodata
.debug_gdb_scripts .eh_frame .eh_frame_hdr
   01     .tdata .init_array .got .got.plt
.data .bss
   03     .eh_frame_hdr
   05     .tdata
   06     .tdata .init_array .got .got.plt

Some notes:

As a test, I changed the non-C binary's target device file to /dev/zero,
and then I could see that the non-C mmap attempt would succeed just fine.

After further verification and debugging based on guidance from another
forum, I have convinced that the vm_flags change must be occuring somewhere
in kernel land after control flow has left user land. Now I need to figure
out how to use a kernel debugger or kprobes to walk through the execution
of mmap callback delegation and see where the flags parameter is being

I was pointed out to this:

But why would my vm_flags be changed by the kernel? And what can I do to
get this to stop? Why is the kernel changing the vm_flags for a non-C
binary using my device file, but not for either a C binary using my device
file or any type of binary that's not using my device file?

On Thu, Jan 14, 2016 at 12:28 PM, Kenneth Adam Miller <
kennethadammiller at> wrote:

> On Thu, Jan 14, 2016 at 12:00 PM, Mike Krinkin <krinkin.m.u at>
> wrote:
>> Hi, i have a couple of questions to clarify, if you don't mind
>> On Thu, Jan 14, 2016 at 11:04:28AM -0500, Kenneth Adam Miller wrote:
>> > I have a custom drive and userland program pair that I'm using for a
>> very
>> > special use case at my workplace where we are mapping specific physical
>> > address ranges into userland memory with a mmap callback. Everything
>> works
>> > together well with a C userland program that calls into our driver's
>> ioctl
>> > and mmap definitions, but for our case we are using an alternative
>> systems
>> > language just for the userland program.
>> So you have userland app written in C, and another not written in C?
>> The former works well while the latter doesn't, am i right?
> Yes, the former works in so much as mmap completes successfully. I've
> verified that the
> parameters are identical in the non-C program. The issue of just using the
> C only program
> is that the actual implementation of interest is in the non-C program, and
> that's because
> that language facilitates other features that are *required* on our end.
>> > That mmap call is failing (properly
>> > as we want) out from the driver's mmap implementation due to the fact
>> that
>> > the vm_flags have the VM_EXEC flag set. We do not want users to be able
>> to
>> > map the memory range as executable, so the driver should check for this
>> as
>> > it does. The issue is in the fact that somewhere between where mmap is
>> > called and when the parameters are given to the driver, the
>> vma->vm_flags
>> > are being set to 255. I've manually checked the values being given to
>> the
>> > mmap call in our non-C binary, and they are *equivalent* in value to
>> that
>> > of the C program.
>> By "manually" do you mean strace? Could you show strace output for
>> both apps? And also could you show readelf -l output for both binaries?
> By manually, I mean with a print call just before the mmap call in each of
> the
> programs. Right now, I'm working on getting a strace output, but I have to
> run that in qemu.
> To be able to run it in qemu in order to isolate the driver and all from
> my host, I have to build
> with buildroot. So I'll email that when I get it, but it'll be a while.
>> >
>> > My question is, is there anything that can cause the vma->vm_flags to be
>> > changed in the trip between when the user land program calls mmap and
>> when
>> > control is delivered to the mmap callback?
>> > _______________________________________________
>> > Kernelnewbies mailing list
>> > Kernelnewbies at
>> >
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