Making C Less Dangerous in the Linux kernel

C2 | Fri 25 Jan | 1:30 p.m.–2:15 p.m.

Presented by

  • Kees Cook

    Kees Cook has been working with Free Software since 1994, and has been a Debian Developer since 2007. He is currently employed as a Linux kernel security engineer by Google, working on Android and Chrome OS. From 2006 through 2011 he worked for Canonical as the Ubuntu Security Team's Tech Lead, and remains on the Ubuntu Technical Board. Before that, he worked as the lead sysadmin at OSDL, before it was the Linux Foundation. He has written various utilities including GOPchop and Sendpage, and contributes randomly to other projects including fun chunks of code in OpenSSH, Inkscape, Wine, MPlayer, and Wireshark. He's been spending most of his time lately focused on security features in the Linux Kernel.


With the Linux kernel written in C, it comes with some worrisome baggage, "undefined" behaviors, and other weaknesses that lead to security flaws and vulnerable infrastructure. Some of these weaknesses related to the design of chipsets and how close C is to machine code, but others are less specific. This presentation will explore the areas where the kernel is changing the C standard, defining undefined behaviors, or otherwise reorganizing things to make C itself less of a hazard. Specifically this will cover removing (and enforcing the lack of) Variable Length Arrays in kernel code, forcing all stack variables to be initialized with a GCC plugin, performing implicit bounds checking with overloaded builtins, handling arithmetic overflows safely, and protecting forward (call) and reverse (return) indirect function calls with CFI under Clang. Linux Australia: YouTube: