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BPF Kernel Functions (kfuncs)
1. Introduction
BPF Kernel Functions or more commonly known as kfuncs are functions in the Linux
kernel which are exposed for use by BPF programs. Unlike normal BPF helpers,
kfuncs do not have a stable interface and can change from one kernel release to
another. Hence, BPF programs need to be updated in response to changes in the
2. Defining a kfunc
There are two ways to expose a kernel function to BPF programs, either make an
existing function in the kernel visible, or add a new wrapper for BPF. In both
cases, care must be taken that BPF program can only call such function in a
valid context. To enforce this, visibility of a kfunc can be per program type.
If you are not creating a BPF wrapper for existing kernel function, skip ahead
to :ref:`BPF_kfunc_nodef`.
2.1 Creating a wrapper kfunc
When defining a wrapper kfunc, the wrapper function should have extern linkage.
This prevents the compiler from optimizing away dead code, as this wrapper kfunc
is not invoked anywhere in the kernel itself. It is not necessary to provide a
prototype in a header for the wrapper kfunc.
An example is given below::
/* Disables missing prototype warnings */
"Global kfuncs as their definitions will be in BTF");
struct task_struct *bpf_find_get_task_by_vpid(pid_t nr)
return find_get_task_by_vpid(nr);
A wrapper kfunc is often needed when we need to annotate parameters of the
kfunc. Otherwise one may directly make the kfunc visible to the BPF program by
registering it with the BPF subsystem. See :ref:`BPF_kfunc_nodef`.
2.2 Annotating kfunc parameters
Similar to BPF helpers, there is sometime need for additional context required
by the verifier to make the usage of kernel functions safer and more useful.
Hence, we can annotate a parameter by suffixing the name of the argument of the
kfunc with a __tag, where tag may be one of the supported annotations.
2.2.1 __sz Annotation
This annotation is used to indicate a memory and size pair in the argument list.
An example is given below::
void bpf_memzero(void *mem, int mem__sz)
Here, the verifier will treat first argument as a PTR_TO_MEM, and second
argument as its size. By default, without __sz annotation, the size of the type
of the pointer is used. Without __sz annotation, a kfunc cannot accept a void
.. _BPF_kfunc_nodef:
2.3 Using an existing kernel function
When an existing function in the kernel is fit for consumption by BPF programs,
it can be directly registered with the BPF subsystem. However, care must still
be taken to review the context in which it will be invoked by the BPF program
and whether it is safe to do so.
2.4 Annotating kfuncs
In addition to kfuncs' arguments, verifier may need more information about the
type of kfunc(s) being registered with the BPF subsystem. To do so, we define
flags on a set of kfuncs as follows::
BTF_ID_FLAGS(func, bpf_get_task_pid, KF_ACQUIRE | KF_RET_NULL)
BTF_ID_FLAGS(func, bpf_put_pid, KF_RELEASE)
This set encodes the BTF ID of each kfunc listed above, and encodes the flags
along with it. Ofcourse, it is also allowed to specify no flags.
2.4.1 KF_ACQUIRE flag
The KF_ACQUIRE flag is used to indicate that the kfunc returns a pointer to a
refcounted object. The verifier will then ensure that the pointer to the object
is eventually released using a release kfunc, or transferred to a map using a
referenced kptr (by invoking bpf_kptr_xchg). If not, the verifier fails the
loading of the BPF program until no lingering references remain in all possible
explored states of the program.
2.4.2 KF_RET_NULL flag
The KF_RET_NULL flag is used to indicate that the pointer returned by the kfunc
may be NULL. Hence, it forces the user to do a NULL check on the pointer
returned from the kfunc before making use of it (dereferencing or passing to
another helper). This flag is often used in pairing with KF_ACQUIRE flag, but
both are orthogonal to each other.
2.4.3 KF_RELEASE flag
The KF_RELEASE flag is used to indicate that the kfunc releases the pointer
passed in to it. There can be only one referenced pointer that can be passed in.
All copies of the pointer being released are invalidated as a result of invoking
kfunc with this flag.
2.4.4 KF_KPTR_GET flag
The KF_KPTR_GET flag is used to indicate that the kfunc takes the first argument
as a pointer to kptr, safely increments the refcount of the object it points to,
and returns a reference to the user. The rest of the arguments may be normal
arguments of a kfunc. The KF_KPTR_GET flag should be used in conjunction with
2.4.5 KF_TRUSTED_ARGS flag
The KF_TRUSTED_ARGS flag is used for kfuncs taking pointer arguments. It
indicates that the all pointer arguments will always have a guaranteed lifetime,
and pointers to kernel objects are always passed to helpers in their unmodified
form (as obtained from acquire kfuncs).
It can be used to enforce that a pointer to a refcounted object acquired from a
kfunc or BPF helper is passed as an argument to this kfunc without any
modifications (e.g. pointer arithmetic) such that it is trusted and points to
the original object.
Meanwhile, it is also allowed pass pointers to normal memory to such kfuncs,
but those can have a non-zero offset.
This flag is often used for kfuncs that operate (change some property, perform
some operation) on an object that was obtained using an acquire kfunc. Such
kfuncs need an unchanged pointer to ensure the integrity of the operation being
performed on the expected object.
2.4.6 KF_SLEEPABLE flag
The KF_SLEEPABLE flag is used for kfuncs that may sleep. Such kfuncs can only
be called by sleepable BPF programs (BPF_F_SLEEPABLE).
The KF_DESTRUCTIVE flag is used to indicate functions calling which is
destructive to the system. For example such a call can result in system
rebooting or panicking. Due to this additional restrictions apply to these
calls. At the moment they only require CAP_SYS_BOOT capability, but more can be
added later.
2.5 Registering the kfuncs
Once the kfunc is prepared for use, the final step to making it visible is
registering it with the BPF subsystem. Registration is done per BPF program
type. An example is shown below::
BTF_ID_FLAGS(func, bpf_get_task_pid, KF_ACQUIRE | KF_RET_NULL)
BTF_ID_FLAGS(func, bpf_put_pid, KF_RELEASE)
static const struct btf_kfunc_id_set bpf_task_kfunc_set = {
.owner = THIS_MODULE,
.set = &bpf_task_set,
static int init_subsystem(void)
return register_btf_kfunc_id_set(BPF_PROG_TYPE_TRACING, &bpf_task_kfunc_set);