Re: Access unprivileged regions from OS

Allen Baum

The sPMP proposal has not been discussed in any detail as far as I know, so it is hard to pin down.
The advantage of sPMP is that it should be much lower cost and simpler compared to page-based virtual memory.
The downside is there is no ability to relocate addresses - it is less flexible.

My understanding of the intent (which could be wrong, to be clear) is that it primarily targets an embedded system that had 3 privilege levels (M,S,U) but didn't need virtual memory. In such a system,  the OS (S-mode) privilege level needs the ability to configure memory protection, but the existing PMP can only be configured by M-mode. sPMP was proposed to correct this.

The Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) is defining an enhanced PMP, but it still only differentiates between M-mode and non-M-Mode; specifically, it doesn't differentiate between S-mode and U-mode protections.
In any case, there have been no  sPMP discussions in any TG that I'm aware of yet. That could happen in the TEE TG, but certainly not before the enhanced PMP work is finished .

On Mon, Nov 2, 2020 at 2:18 AM Xinhao (Freddie) Qu via <> wrote:

Is sPMP an alternative to page-based permissions? If so, what advantage does it provide over the latter?





From: Andrew Waterman [mailto:andrew@...]
Sent: Friday, October 30, 2020 10:51 PM
To: Bill Huffman <huffman@...>
Cc: Jonathan Behrens <behrensj@...>; Xinhaoqu (Freddie) <xinhaoqu@...>; Andrea Mondelli <andrea.mondelli@...>; tech-privileged@...
Subject: Re: [RISC-V] [tech-privileged] Access unprivileged regions from OS




On Fri, Oct 30, 2020 at 3:46 PM Bill Huffman <huffman@...> wrote:

That might mean that the sPMP being considered might need a probe of some sort.

I'd tend to think that the user processes running under sPMP will have few enough data regions that software base-and-bounds checks on syscall arguments isn't prohibitively expensive.



On 10/30/20 3:39 PM, Jonathan Behrens wrote:


In the worst case, a software page table walk isn't that expensive.


On Fri, Oct 30, 2020 at 6:26 PM Andrew Waterman via <> wrote:



On Fri, Oct 30, 2020 at 2:46 PM Bill Huffman <huffman@...> wrote:


On 10/30/20 2:32 PM, Andrew Waterman wrote:




On Fri, Oct 30, 2020 at 8:19 AM Xinhaoqu (Freddie) <xinhaoqu@...> wrote:

Hi Andrew,


I’m not sure the sstatus.SUM bit is providing the equivalent of LDTR/STTR. The pair of load/store instructions lower their privilege level so that if they end up access privileged locations, they will fault. On the other hand, when status.SUM==1, even if the page is marked as “User”, supervisor code can still access it.


From section in the Privileged ISA spec:


The SUM (permit Supervisor User Memory access) bit modifies the privilege with which S-mode

loads and stores access virtual memory. When SUM=0, S-mode memory accesses to pages that are

accessible by U-mode (U=1 in Figure 4.17) will fault. When SUM=1, these accesses are permitted.

SUM has no effect when page-based virtual memory is not in effect. Note that, while SUM is

ordinarily ignored when not executing in S-mode, it is in effect when MPRV=1 and MPP=S. SUM

is hardwired to 0 if S-mode is not supported.


There is nothing mentioning what would happen if load/store instructions in S-mode attempt locations that require privilege. That means to me they are permitted when sstatus.SUM==1. This behaviour is fine in itself, but doesn’t match what the LDTR/STTR instructions do. I think sstatus.SUM’s equivalent is PSTATE.PAN, not LDTR/STTR. In other words, LDTR/STTR has no equivalent in RISC-V, AFAIK.


Right.  SUM can be used to solve the same problem as LDTR/STTR, but it is not equivalent.  To avoid the concern you describe, the Linux kernel first performs a bounds check to guarantee the address is in the user process' VA range.  Then, it engages SUM and performs the unprivileged access.

That's, of course, a very Linux centric answer.  With more general address maps - or a "bare MMU" - the problem is harder to solve.  Do you have an expectation for that case?

It's not especially Linux-centric; it's more conventional-OS-with-paging-centric.


mstatus.MPRV handles the situation adequately for PMP-based protection in M/U systems.


S-mode with general address maps is not adequately addressed here, but at least at the moment, that strikes me as a bit too hypothetical of a problem.  If we did need to solve it, an S-mode MPRV feature would also suffice.









From: tech-privileged@... [mailto:tech-privileged@...] On Behalf Of Andrew Waterman
Sent: Friday, October 30, 2020 9:50 AM
To: Andrea Mondelli <
Subject: Re: [RISC-V] [tech-privileged] Access unprivileged regions from OS




On Fri, Oct 30, 2020 at 2:45 AM Andrea Mondelli via <> wrote:

Hi all,

quoting the arm manual, "sometimes the OS does need to access unprivileged regions, for example, to write to a buffer owned by an application. To support this, the instruction set provides the LDTR and STTR instructions."
According to the Volume II: RISC-V Privileged Architectures Chapter 7, In RISCV we don't have any similar privileged instruction to do it.

There is an alternative way to have the same behavior? I was thinking other examples like checking user parameters when syscall are called.


Yeah.  Set the sstatus.SUM bit, then use regular load and store instructions to access user memory, then clear sstatus.SUM.


Any hints?

thanks in advance

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