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Processor Privilege-Levels

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1 Processor Privilege-Levels
How the x86 processor accomplishes transitions among its four distinct privilege-levels

2 Rationale The usefulness of protected-mode derives from its ability to enforce restrictions upon software’s freedom to take certain actions Four distinct privilege-levels are supported Organizing concept is “concentric rings” Innermost ring has greatest privileges, and privileges diminish as rings move outward

3 Four Privilege Rings Least-trusted level Most-trusted level Ring 3

4 Suggested purposes Ring0: operating system kernel
Ring1: operating system services Ring2: custom extensions Ring3: ordinary user applications

5 Unix/Linux and Windows
Ring0: operating system Ring1: unused Ring2: unused Ring3: application programs

6 Legal Ring-Transitions
A transition from an outer ring to an inner ring is made possible by using a special control-structure (known as a ‘call gate’) The ‘gate’ is defined via a data-structure located in a ‘system’ memory-segment normally not accessible for modifications A transition from an inner ring to an outer ring is not nearly so strictly controlled

7 Data-sharing Function-calls typically require that two separate routines share some data-values (e.g., parameter-values get passed from the calling routine to the called routine) To support reentrancy and recursion, the processor’s stack-segment is frequently used as a ‘shared-access’ storage-area But among routines with different levels of privilege this could create a “security hole”

8 An example senario Say a procedure that executes in ring 3 calls a procedure that executes in ring 2 The ring 2 procedure uses a portion of its stack-area to create ‘automatic’ variables that it uses for temporary workspace Upon return, the ring 3 procedure would be able to examine whatever values are left behind in this ring 2 workspace

9 Data Isolation To guard against unintentional sharing of privileged information, different stacks are provided at each distinct privilege-level Accordingly, any transition from one ring to another must necessarily be accompanied by an mandatory ‘stack-switch’ operation The CPU provides for automatic switching of stacks and copying of parameter-values

10 Call-Gate Descriptors
63 32 offset[ ] P D P L gate type parameter count code-selector offset[ ] 31 Legend: P=present (1=yes, 0=no) DPL=Descriptor Prvilege Level (0,1,2,3) code-selector (specifies memory-segment containing procedure code) offset (specifies the procedure’s entry-point within its code-segment) parameter count (specifies how many parameter-values will be copied) gate-type (‘0x4’ means a 16-bit call-gate, ‘0xC’ means a 32-bit call-gate)

11 An Interprivilege Call
When a lesser privileged routine wants to invoke a more privileged routine, it does so by using a ‘far call’ machine-instruction (also known as a “long call” in the GNU assembler’s terminology) In ‘as’ assembly language: lcall $callgate-selector, $0 0x9A (ignored) callgate-selector opcode offset-field segment-field

12 What does the CPU do? When CPU fetches a far-call instruction, it will use that instruction’s ‘selector’ value to look up a descriptor in the GDT (or in the current LDT) If it’s a ‘call-gate’ descriptor, and if access is allowed (i.e., if CPL  DPL), then the CPU will perform a complex sequence of actions which will accomplish the requested ‘ring-transition’ CPL (Current Privilege Level) is based on least significant 2-bits in register CS (also in SS)

13 Sequence of CPU’s actions
- pushes the current SS:SP register-values onto a new stack-segment - copies the specified number of parameters from the old stack onto the new stack - pushes the updated CS:IP register-values onto the new stack - loads new values into registers CS:IP (from the callgate-descriptor) and into SS:SP

14 The missing info? Where do the new values for SS:SP come from? (They’re not found in the call-gate) They’re from a special system-segment, known as the TSS (Task State Segment) The CPU locates its TSS by referring to the value in register TR (Task Register)

15 Diagram of the relationships
old code-segment new code-segment TASK STATE SEGMENT call-instruction called procedure CS:IP NEW STACK SEGMENT OLD STACK SEGMENT params stack-pointer Descriptor-Table gate-descriptor params SS:SP TSS-descriptor TR GDTR

16 Return to an Outer Ring Use the far-return instruction: ‘lret’
Restores CS:IP from the current stack Restores SS:SP from the current stack Or use the far-return instruction: ‘lret $n’ Discards n parameter-bytes from that stack Restores SS:SP from that current stack

17 Demo-program: ‘tryring1.s’
We have created a short program to show how this ring-transition mechanism works It enters protected-mode (at ring0) It ‘returns’ to a procedure in ring1 Procedure shows a confirmation-message The ring1 procedure then ‘calls’ to ring0 The ring0 procedure exits protected-mode

18 Data-structures needed
Global Descriptor Table needs to contain the protected-mode segment-descriptors and also the ‘call-gate’ descriptor Code-segments for Ring0 and Ring1 Stack-segments for Ring0 and Ring1 Data-segment (for Ring1 to write to VRAM) Task-State Segment (for the ring0 SS:SP) Call-Gate Descriptor (for the ‘lcall’ to ring0)

19 In-class Exercise #1 Modify the ‘tryring1.s’ demo so that it uses a 32-bit call-gate and a 32-bit TSS TSS for 80286 (16-bits) TSS for 80386 (32-bits) 2 SP0 4 ESP0 SS0 8 SS0 4 SP1 ESP1 6 12 8 SS1 SS1 16 10 SP2 ESP2 20 12 SS2 SS2 24

20 System Segment-Descriptors
S-bit is zero Base[ ] reserved =0 Limit [19..16] P D P L type Base[ ] Base[ ] Limit[ ] Type-codes for system-segments: 0 = reserved 1 = 16-bit TSS (available) 2 = LDT 3 = 16-bit TSS (busy) 8 = reserved 9 = 32-bit TSS (available) A = reserved B = 32-bit TSS (busy)

21 In-class exercise #2 Modify the ‘tryring1.s’ demo so that it first enters ring2, then calls to ring1 from ring2 (but returns to ring2), and then finally calls to ring0 in order to exit protected-mode How many stack-segments do you need? How many code-segment descriptors? How many VRAM-segment descriptors?

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