Video - A Go Programmers guide to Syscalls

Source: GopherCon 2017: Liz Rice - A Go Programmer's Guide to Syscalls

Status: #🛈/📹/✅


  • SyscallSyscall
    In Linux, whenever a user application wants to touch any of these:

    any hardware or devices
    running processes
    networking stuff
    writing to stdout
    it can't do so on it...
    is a way for a program running in userspace to request sevices from the kernel of Linux OS
  • program can't touch these without kernel/syscalls:
    • files
    • devices
    • processes
    • communications/networking
    • date/time
    • even writing to stdout
  • strace is a tool allowing us to see syscalls made by a process
    • strace -c ./myapp gives us a summary of all syscalls made
  • fmt.Println in go uses a write syscall under the hood:
    • Println calls Fprintln and passes it os.Stdout
    • Fprintln calls write on os.Stdout
    • Stdout is created with NewFile (at /dev/stdout) which creates a File
    • inside of File there is finally a call to syscall.Write
  • 01 Inbox/Golang syscall package is a low level package that makes it easier to create syscalls
    • implementation varies by os/hardware
    • shouldn't be used if there is a high-level alternative
    • its pretty much a wrapper around the OS, so for details on how to use it and what each syscall does, you'd have to look up the manual for your platform
    • In the end they all call Syscall() with different parameters - in this example Syscall(SYS_WRITE)
    • there is about 300 of them on linux:
  • what does Syscall do?
    • saves register state before making changes (?)
    • sets up a register with the details about syscall you are making
    • issues a trap (an interrupt saying - ok kernel, i need you to do something for me)
    • kernel reads info from the register, does its job and writes the response back to the register
    • application reads the response from the register
    • and finally restores register to the initial state from step 1 (?)
  • implementing syscall layer allows you to emulate linux (e.g. bash on windows)
  • ptrace is a syscall that allows strace-like tools to see into the processes and manipulate them
    • allows us to manipulate registers and memory of another process
    • it's primarily used for implementing breakpoint debugging and syscall tracing
    • in go there is a lot of ptrace subcommands that are all helpers that wrap around SYS_PTRACE
  • building our own strace
    • when starting a process with ptrace, it will end up in a breakpoint-like state
    • once your process exits, there is nothing holding that breakpoint so the child process will continue working
    • while breakpointed we can issue syscall to read the registers
    • name of the currently running syscall can be fetched from Orig_rax register
    • execve is name of syscall that happens when we want to create a new process
    • PTRACE_SYSCALL will restart the child process and make it stop on the next syscall, allowing us to move forward
    • syscall.wait4 allows us to wait for the next interrupt
    • we can loop through the whole program and see all syscalls by:
      • syscall.PtraceGetRegs + extract the name of the current syscall
      • syscall.PtraceSyscall to let it run to the (exit or enter of) next syscall
      • syscall.Wait4 to make it wait for the interrupt of the next syscall to happen
    • because PtraceSyscall triggers on enters and exits, we will have to keep track of the state ourselves
  • syscalls and security
    • for microservice architecture, it might make sense to approach syscalls with the principle of least privilege, and limit syscalls a process can make
    • seccomp can be used to limit syscalls of a process:
      • e.g. docker run --security-opt seccomp=/path/sc_profile.json hello-world
      • we can similarily implement a filter that will enable us to dissalow a syscall in a process