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BPFMon Proof of Concept

This is a proof-of-concept example of using eBPF to Monitor for changes to eBPF Maps from user and kernel programs. This was written to accompany the blog Mapping It Out: Analyzing the Security of eBPF Maps

This is not intended to be used in production, but to instead demonstrate the challenge of monitoring for eBPF Map tampering.


BPFMon has been tested on Ubuntu 20.10, running kernel 5.8.3-050803. Other kernels and distros should work, but no other testing was done.

BPFMon has the same prerequisite packages as libbpf:

  • clang 11+
  • libelf (libelf-dev on Ubuntu)
  • zlib (zlib1g-dev on Ubuntu)

Occasianly, I've found the llvm-strip program not to have been installed correctly, so if something goes wrong you might need to run something like this to make llvm-strip point to the version-specific binary:

sudo ln -s "$(which llvm-strip-11)" "$(dirname $(which llvm-strip-11))/llvm-strip"

Once these are installed, ensure the libbpf submodule is initialised, then run make from the src directory:

cd bpfmon-example
git submodule update --init --recursive

cd src


The build will generate two programs:


This is an example user mode+eBPF program, that will continually call bpf_map_update_elem from both kernel and userland to update an eBPF Map, once per second. To run:



This is the main monitoring program. It creates a number of KProbes to look for Map Writing from user or eBPF programs (see 'How it works' below). It also looks for usermode programs getting a new handle to a map. To run:

sudo ./bpfmon

How it works

As covered in the blog Mapping it out: Analysing the security of eBPF Maps, programs that use eBPF often store configuration inside eBPF Maps. A privileged attacker can alter the values in these maps to tamper with the program, which is non-trivial to detect.

BPPMon demonstrates one approach at tamper detection, by using KProbes to inspect calls to a number of kernel functions used in updating values inside eBPF Maps. The functions it attaches to are:

BPF Syscall

The bpf syscall is the main way usermode applications interact with eBPF programs and maps.

When a user mode program wants to alter data inside a map, it must first get a handle to it by calling this syscall with the BPF_MAP_GET_FD_BY_ID option, passing in the global ID of the Map it wishes to alter. The kernel will return a handle ID, that is meaningless to everyone else except that process.

It then calls the syscall again, this time with BPF_MAP_UPDATE_ELEM, passing in the data to update, along with the handle from the first call.

Linking these 2 events together is difficult, as you must keep track of the process+handle pairings for each process. Additionally, processes can fork (creating new processes with the same handles), duplicate handles (create a new handle that refers to the Map), or even send the handle to another process, all of which makes it harder for a monitor to audit the system as a whole.

Finally, Map alterations can be made by the kernel eBPF programs, which don't use the syscall but instead access to maps directly using a memory pointer.

As such, in order to get the complete picture, this can't be the only function to inspect, so BPFMon attaches 2 more KProbes:


static int bpf_map_update_value(
   struct bpf_map *map, struct fd f,
   void *key, void *value, __u64 flags

This is an internal kernel function that is run after the bpf syscall, after the kernel has looked up the process-specific handle, and retrieved the correct eBPF Map kernel object. This object contains vital information to log, such as:

  • The global Map ID
  • The Name of the Map
  • The size of the keys
  • The size of the values

Additionally, as we know the size of the keys and values, we can read them out of the process' memory, and so together we can log "Process P updated Map M with Key K and Value V".

This however only works for user mode processes altering Maps. To also log when another eBPF Program alters a map, we need one more KProbe:


static int array_map_update_elem(
   struct bpf_map *map, void *key,
   void *value, u64 map_flags

This function is called whenever an eBPF program calls the bpf_map_update_value() function to update a value in a Map.

Due to how Map objects are created, attaching to bpf_map_update_value itself doesn't work, but we can attach the type-specific functions it calls to do the actual update. array_map_update_elem is only called when updating maps of type BPF_MAP_TYPE_ARRAY, but there are other functions for each of the different map types. As this is a proof-of-concept, BPFMon only attaches to the Array type. Like bpf_map_update_value, the function is called with the pointer to the eBPF Map kernel object, so we get all the information necessary to log.

We can't tell which BPF Program is doing the updating, but we can tell which process it is running in.


As this is only meant as a small demonstration, there are a number of limitations.

  • BPFMon has only been tested on Ubuntu running a 5.8.3 kernel.
  • It only detects writes from the kernel if the map type is BPF_MAP_TYPE_ARRAY
  • Testing write detections to/from eBPF maps was only done using bpftool, and our mapwriter program.
  • 2 of the KProbes are attached to kernel functions that may change signature, be removed, etc., at any future kernel update.

Other Notes

The Makefile of this project is heavily based upon the one in LibBPF Bootstrap.

For more details, see the related blog Mapping It Out: Analyzing the Security of eBPF Maps.


proof-of-concept example of using eBPF to Monitor for eBPF Map tampering







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