Improved Memory Security For Radeon DRM
Written by Michael Larabel in AMD on 18 June 2009 at 01:29 PM EDT. 27 Comments
Yesterday the TTM memory manager and Radeon kernel mode-setting code entered the mainline Linux kernel Git tree, which means it will be part of the next Linux 2.6.31 kernel release. In the 2.6.31 series this new Radeon driver will be marked as "staging" as there is still some work left to be accomplished and further testing needs to be done with this driver and different Radeon graphics cards. One of the items that had not been addressed in this initial code push was much in the way of security, however, already that has partially changed.

Jerome Glisse, who has long been involved with the development of open-source ATI X.Org drivers and was the original developer behind the short-lived xf86-video-avivo driver, has submitted a command stream state checker for the Radeon DRM code. With the ATI GPU memory management being done within the kernel, there must be safeguards in place that prevent user-space processes from exploiting that by accessing system memory beyond its allowed GPU memory objects.

This command stream state checker currently supports the ATI R300, R400, and R500 generations of hardware. This code checks against color buffers, z-buffers, vertex buffers, and textures. Right now this newly-proposed code does not guard against 2D rendering states. With the additional overhead now of having to monitor the GPU's command stream to ensure that no commands are violating their memory rights, there is a performance cost. Jerome mentions that he is currently seeing about a 3% decrease in performance, but further optimization can still be done via caching support.

Jerome's R300-R500 series command state checker is just over 1,000 lines of code long and can be found on the DRI development list.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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