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MEMFD_CREATE(2) Linux Programmer's Manual MEMFD_CREATE(2)


     memfd_create - create an anonymous file


     #include <sys/memfd.h>
     int memfd_create(const char *name, unsigned int flags);


     memfd_create()  creates an anonymous file and returns a file descriptor
     that refers to it.  The file behaves like a regular file, and so can be
     modified, truncated, memory-mapped, and so on.  However, unlike a regu-
     lar file, it lives in RAM and has a volatile backing storage.  Once all
     references  to  the  file  are  dropped,  it is automatically released.
     Anonymous memory is used for all backing pages of the file.  Therefore,
     files created by memfd_create() have the same semantics as other anony-
     mous memory allocations such as those allocated using mmap(2) with  the
     MAP_ANONYMOUS flag.
     The initial size of the file is set to 0.  Following the call, the file
     size should be set using ftruncate(2).  (Alternatively, the file may be
     populated by calls to write(2) or similar.)
     The  name  supplied in name is used as a filename and will be displayed
     as the target of the  corresponding  symbolic  link  in  the  directory
     /proc/self/fd/.   The displayed name is always prefixed with memfd: and
     serves only for debugging purposes.  Names do not affect  the  behavior
     of  the  file  descriptor, and as such multiple files can have the same
     name without any side effects.
     The following values may be bitwise ORed in flags to change the  behav-
     ior of memfd_create():
            Set the close-on-exec (FD_CLOEXEC) flag on the new file descrip-
            tor.  See the description of the O_CLOEXEC flag in  open(2)  for
            reasons why this may be useful.
            Allow  sealing  operations  on this file.  See the discussion of
            the F_ADD_SEALS and F_GET_SEALS operations in fcntl(2), and also
            NOTES,  below.  The initial set of seals is empty.  If this flag
            is not set, the initial set of seals will be F_SEAL_SEAL,  mean-
            ing that no other seals can be set on the file.
     MFD_HUGETLB (since Linux 4.14)
            The  anonymous  file will be created in the hugetlbfs filesystem
            using huge pages.  See the Linux kernel source  file  Documenta-
            tion/vm/hugetlbpage.txt  for  more  information about hugetlbfs.
            The hugetlbfs filesystem does not  support  file-sealing  opera-
            tions.     Therefore,    specifying    both    MFD_HUGETLB   and
            MFD_ALLOW_SEALING in flags is disallowed.
     MFD_HUGE_2MB, MFD_HUGE_1GB, ...
            Used in  conjunction  with  MFD_HUGETLB  to  select  alternative
            hugetlb  page  sizes (respectively, 2 MB, 1 GB, ...)  on systems
            that support multiple hugetlb page sizes.  Definitions for known
            huge page sizes are included in the header file <sys/memfd.h>.
            For  details  on  encoding  huge  page sizes not included in the
            header file, see the discussion of the similarly named constants
            in mmap(2).
     Unused bits in flags must be 0.
     As  its return value, memfd_create() returns a new file descriptor that
     can be used to refer to the file.  This file descriptor is  opened  for
     both  reading  and writing (O_RDWR) and O_LARGEFILE is set for the file
     With respect to fork(2) and execve(2), the usual  semantics  apply  for
     the  file  descriptor  created  by  memfd_create().  A copy of the file
     descriptor is inherited by the child produced by fork(2) and refers  to
     the  same  file.   The  file  descriptor is preserved across execve(2),
     unless the close-on-exec flag has been set.


     On success, memfd_create() returns a new file descriptor.  On error, -1
     is returned and errno is set to indicate the error.


     EFAULT The address in name points to invalid memory.
     EINVAL flags included unknown bits.
     EINVAL name  was too long.  (The limit is 249 bytes, excluding the ter-
            minating null byte.)
     EINVAL Both MFD_HUGETLB and MFD_ALLOW_SEALING were specified in  flags.
     EMFILE The per-process limit on the number of open file descriptors has
            been reached.
     ENFILE The system-wide limit on the total number of open files has been
     ENOMEM There was insufficient memory to create a new anonymous file.


     The memfd_create() system call first appeared in Linux 3.17; glibc sup-
     port was added in version 2.27.


     The memfd_create() system call is Linux-specific.


     The memfd_create() system call provides a simple alternative  to  manu-
     ally  mounting a tmpfs(5) filesystem and creating and opening a file in
     that filesystem.  The primary purpose of memfd_create()  is  to  create
     files and associated file descriptors that are used with the file-seal-
     ing APIs provided by fcntl(2).
     The memfd_create() system call  also  has  uses  without  file  sealing
     (which  is  why  file-sealing  is disabled, unless explicitly requested
     with the MFD_ALLOW_SEALING flag).  In particular, it can be used as  an
     alternative  to creating files in tmp or as an alternative to using the
     open(2) O_TMPFILE in cases where there is no intention to actually link
     the resulting file into the filesystem.
 File sealing
     In  the  absence of file sealing, processes that communicate via shared
     memory must either trust each other, or take measures to deal with  the
     possibility  that  an  untrusted  peer may manipulate the shared memory
     region in problematic ways.  For example, an untrusted peer might  mod-
     ify the contents of the shared memory at any time, or shrink the shared
     memory region.  The former possibility leaves the local process vulner-
     able  to  time-of-check-to-time-of-use race conditions (typically dealt
     with by copying data from the shared memory region before checking  and
     using  it).  The latter possibility leaves the local process vulnerable
     to SIGBUS signals when an attempt is made to access  a  now-nonexistent
     location  in  the shared memory region.  (Dealing with this possibility
     necessitates the use of a handler for the SIGBUS signal.)
     Dealing with untrusted peers imposes  extra  complexity  on  code  that
     employs shared memory.  Memory sealing enables that extra complexity to
     be eliminated, by allowing a process to operate secure in the knowledge
     that its peer can't modify the shared memory in an undesired fashion.
     An example of the usage of the sealing mechanism is as follows:
     1. The first process creates a tmpfs(5) file using memfd_create().  The
        call yields a file descriptor used in subsequent steps.
     2. The first process sizes the file created in the previous step  using
        ftruncate(2), maps it using mmap(2), and populates the shared memory
        with the desired data.
     3. The first process uses the fcntl(2) F_ADD_SEALS operation  to  place
        one  or more seals on the file, in order to restrict further modifi-
        cations on the file.  (If placing the  seal  F_SEAL_WRITE,  then  it
        will be necessary to first unmap the shared writable mapping created
        in the previous step.)
     4. A second process obtains a file descriptor for the tmpfs(5) file and
        maps it.  Among the possible ways in which this could happen are the
  • The process that called memfd_create() could transfer the result-

ing file descriptor to the second process via a UNIX domain

           socket (see unix(7) and cmsg(3)).  The second process  then  maps
           the file using mmap(2).
  • The second process is created via fork(2) and thus automatically

inherits the file descriptor and mapping. (Note that in this

           case  and the next, there is a natural trust relationship between
           the two processes, since they are running under the same user ID.
           Therefore, file sealing would not normally be necessary.)
  • The second process opens the file /proc/<pid>/fd/<fd>, where

<pid> is the PID of the first process (the one that called

           memfd_create()),  and  <fd>  is the number of the file descriptor
           returned by the call to memfd_create() in that process.  The sec-
           ond process then maps the file using mmap(2).
     5. The  second  process  uses  the  fcntl(2)  F_GET_SEALS  operation to
        retrieve the bit mask of seals that has been applied  to  the  file.
        This  bit  mask can be inspected in order to determine what kinds of
        restrictions have been placed on file  modifications.   If  desired,
        the  second  process  can  apply  further seals to impose additional
        restrictions (so long as the  F_SEAL_SEAL  seal  has  not  yet  been


     Below  are  shown  two  example  programs  that  demonstrate the use of
     memfd_create() and the file sealing API.
     The first program, t_memfd_create.c,  creates  a  tmpfs(5)  file  using
     memfd_create(),  sets  a  size  for  the file, maps it into memory, and
     optionally places some seals on the file.  The program  accepts  up  to
     three command-line arguments, of which the first two are required.  The
     first argument is the name to associate with the file, the second argu-
     ment  is  the size to be set for the file, and the optional third argu-
     ment is a string of characters that specify seals to be set on file.
     The second program, t_get_seals.c, can be used to open an existing file
     that  was  created via memfd_create() and inspect the set of seals that
     have been applied to that file.
     The following shell session demonstrates the  use  of  these  programs.
     First we create a tmpfs(5) file and set some seals on it:
         $  ./t_memfd_create  my_memfd_file  4096 sw & [1] 11775 PID: 11775;
         fd: 3; /proc/11775/fd/3
     At this point, the t_memfd_create program continues to run in the back-
     ground.   From another program, we can obtain a file descriptor for the
     file created by memfd_create() by opening the /proc/[pid]/fd file  that
     corresponds  to  the  file  descriptor opened by memfd_create().  Using
     that pathname, we inspect the content of  the  /proc/[pid]/fd  symbolic
     link,  and use our t_get_seals program to view the seals that have been
     placed on the file:
         $  readlink  /proc/11775/fd/3  /memfd:my_memfd_file   (deleted)   $
         ./t_get_seals /proc/11775/fd/3 Existing seals: WRITE SHRINK
 Program source: t_memfd_create.c
      #include <sys/memfd.h> #include <fcntl.h> #include <stdlib.h> #include
     <unistd.h> #include <string.h> #include <stdio.h>
     #define errExit(msg)    do { perror(msg); exit(EXIT_FAILURE); \
                             } while (0)
     int main(int argc, char *argv[]) {
         int fd;
         unsigned int seals;
         char *addr;
         char *name, *seals_arg;
         ssize_t len;
         if (argc < 3) {
             fprintf(stderr, "%s name size [seals]\n", argv[0]);
             fprintf(stderr, "\t'seals' can contain any of the "
                     "following characters:\n");
             fprintf(stderr, "\t\tg - F_SEAL_GROW\n");
             fprintf(stderr, "\t\ts - F_SEAL_SHRINK\n");
             fprintf(stderr, "\t\tw - F_SEAL_WRITE\n");
             fprintf(stderr, "\t\tS - F_SEAL_SEAL\n");
         name = argv[1];
         len = atoi(argv[2]);
         seals_arg = argv[3];
         /* Create an anonymous file in tmpfs; allow seals to be
            placed on the file */
         fd = memfd_create(name, MFD_ALLOW_SEALING);
         if (fd == -1)
         /* Size the file as specified on the command line */
         if (ftruncate(fd, len) == -1)
         printf("PID: %ld; fd: %d; /proc/%ld/fd/%d\n",
                 (long) getpid(), fd, (long) getpid(), fd);
         /* Code to map the file and populate the mapping with data
            omitted */
         /* If a 'seals' command-line argument was supplied, set some
            seals on the file */
         if (seals_arg != NULL) {
             seals = 0;
             if (strchr(seals_arg, 'g') != NULL)
                 seals |= F_SEAL_GROW;
             if (strchr(seals_arg, 's') != NULL)
                 seals |= F_SEAL_SHRINK;
             if (strchr(seals_arg, 'w') != NULL)
                 seals |= F_SEAL_WRITE;
             if (strchr(seals_arg, 'S') != NULL)
                 seals |= F_SEAL_SEAL;
             if (fcntl(fd, F_ADD_SEALS, seals) == -1)
         /* Keep running, so that the file created by memfd_create()
            continues to exist */
         exit(EXIT_SUCCESS); }
 Program source: t_get_seals.c
      #include <sys/memfd.h> #include <fcntl.h> #include <unistd.h> #include
     <stdlib.h> #include <string.h> #include <stdio.h>
     #define errExit(msg)    do { perror(msg); exit(EXIT_FAILURE); \
                             } while (0)
     int main(int argc, char *argv[]) {
         int fd;
         unsigned int seals;
         if (argc != 2) {
             fprintf(stderr, "%s /proc/PID/fd/FD\n", argv[0]);
         fd = open(argv[1], O_RDWR);
         if (fd == -1)
         seals = fcntl(fd, F_GET_SEALS);
         if (seals == -1)
         printf("Existing seals:");
         if (seals & F_SEAL_SEAL)
             printf(" SEAL");
         if (seals & F_SEAL_GROW)
             printf(" GROW");
         if (seals & F_SEAL_WRITE)
             printf(" WRITE");
         if (seals & F_SEAL_SHRINK)
             printf(" SHRINK");
         /* Code to map the file and access the contents of the
            resulting mapping omitted */
         exit(EXIT_SUCCESS); }


     fcntl(2), ftruncate(2), mmap(2), shmget(2), shm_open(3)


     This  page  is  part of release 4.16 of the Linux man-pages project.  A
     description of the project, information about reporting bugs,  and  the
     latest     version     of     this    page,    can    be    found    at

Linux 2018-02-02 MEMFD_CREATE(2)

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