OpenCL tool to detect buffer overflows in GPU kernels
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clARMOR - A Buffer Overflow Detector for OpenCL Programs

This is clARMOR, the AMD Research Memory Overflow Reporter for OpenCL. This tool wraps API calls to OpenCL libraries and dynamically checks for memory errors caused by OpenCL kernels. When an error is detected (e.g. when a kernel writes beyond the end of a buffer), error information is printed to the screen and is optionally logged to an output file.

The details of how this tool works can be found in the ./docs/ directory, and a deeper introduction can be found in the main README.txt file.

Build Status

Build branch master develop
GCC+Clang, Linux, AMD64 Build Status Build Status

Setting up and building clARMOR

clARMOR requires a number of utilities in order to properly run. Information about these prerequisites can be found in the prereqs/ directory. In particular, the file prereqs/README.txt discusses information about how to set up a system to run this tool. At this time, clARMOR only runs on Linux.

A simplified list of software required to run clARMOR:

  • A working OpenCL 1.1+ installation
  • GCC >= 4.7 or LLVM >= 3.3
  • Python and Python argparse

Additional software that is useful to have installed when working with clARMOR:

  • gdb
  • Clang Static Analyzer (scan-build)
  • cppcheck
  • pylint

Currently, this tool is designed to detect buffer overflows caused by OpenCL kernels that run on GPUs or CPUs. It has been tested most extensively using the AMD APP SDK OpenCL runtime implementation and AMD Catalyst GPU drivers.

To build the clARMOR using your default C and C++ compilers, execute the following from the main directory:


To build the tool using another compiler (e.g. clang), override the CC and CXX environment variables. For example:

CC=clang CXX=clang++ make

(Note that the above means that you can also use 'scan-build make' to run LLVM's static analyzer on this tool.)

To test the tool against its included functional GPU tests, execute:i

make test

To test the tool against its included functional tests, but to run those tests (and thus the detection algorithms) on the CPU, execute:

make cpu_test

To simply build these functional tests without running them, execute:

make build_test

To run Cppcheck against the detector and all the test codes, run:

make check

To run pylint against all of the Python files, execute:

make pylint

clARMOR can also be built in debug mode to help find problems in the detector itself by running:

DEBUG=1 make

Finally, to clean up any builds and remove any temporary files, run:

make clean

Running clARMOR

clARMOR is primarily run using 'bin/clarmor'. Executing this tool with the '-h' or '--help' will explain its arguments.

The simplest description of how to use the buffer overflow detector is to run:

bin/clarmor -w {working directory} -- "{command line}

For example, the following will run the FFT benchmark in the AMD APP SDK through the buffer overflow detector:

./bin/clarmor -w /opt/AMDAPP/samples/opencl/bin/x86_64 -- FFT

In the above example command line, the following two parameters were used:

--working_directory (or -w):
    This parameter allows you to set the working directory of the program
    you wish to test in the overflow detector. {working directory} is the
    the directory where the the program should be run from.
    The run script will temporarily change directories to this working dir,
    and will also temporarily add it to the PATH environment variable.

Command line:
    The final parameter (which can most easily be put after two hyphens,
    "--") is the command line used to run the application you wish to test
    This includes any parameters that you wish to pass into the benchmark
    you wish to test. Because the working directory is part of the PATH,
    this can simply be the name of the binary you wish to run. Alternately,
    it can contain the entire path to the program that you want to run.
    You do not necessarily need to put the command line after the hyphens
    if it is simple enough. However, if the command line you wish to run
    itself contains double-hyphens, then you should either enclose the
    command line in double-quotes (i.e., ./bin/clarmor "cmd_line --options")
    or ensure that the command line is placed after clARMOR's double
    hyphens (i.e., ./bin/clarmor -- cmd_line --options).

Other important functions that can be controlled when using the runscript:

--exit_on_overflow (or -e):
    If the buffer overflow detector finds an OpenCL buffer overflow, this
    parameter will cause the tool to halt the program with an error. This
    helps to minimize any damage from buffer overflows and to limit the
    amount of data dumped to the screen.
    This is disabled by default, meaning that the program will try to
    run to completion even in the face of a detected overflow.

--error_exitcode (or -x):
    Allows the user to specify an exit code for program termination upon
    overflow detection. This flag is only meaningful if --exit_on_overflow
    is set. By default, the error code is set to -1.

--log (or -l):
    This enables logging to a file, rather than simply printing out
    information about buffer overflows to the screen. By default, this
    log file will be stored in the working directory (set with the '-w'
    parameter). By default, the file will be:
    The following parameter, '--logfile', allows this to be overridden.

--logfile (or -f):
    If using the '--log' parameter described above, this can be used to put
    the logfile in a different directory and with a different filename.
    This should be the entire path to the logfile, including the filename.

    Allows the user to specify a string to be appended to the front of each
    output line generated by the tool when it finds an overflow.
    This is "clARMOR: " by default.

    Normally, clARMOR will check both OpenCL kernels and OpenCL API calls.
    API calls like clEnqueueCopyBuffer() can attempt to move too much data
    into a buffer. clARMOR will check the limits of the data movement
    for these API calls before they run.
    This flag turns off that API checking.

The following parameter can be used to help debug broken applications and problems in the detector itself:

    This will run the application (and the detector as well) within GDB.
    This will allow users to run the application within the debugger while
    also searching for buffer overflows.

Testing clARMOR

The simplest way to run all of the tests for clARMOR is to use the script at:


This script will all of the tests below, back to back, and report the results to the screen. If any of the tests fail, the script will return a non-zero value. These tests are split into three categories, which the automated test script will run, depending on command-line flags.

  1. Build-time tests --- This uses the '-b' option
  2. Functional tests --- This uses the '-t' option
  3. Tests against a benchmark group --- This uses the '-g {group}' option

The simplest way to run tests is:

tests/ -b -t

The build-time tests ('-b' option) are:

  • make will ensure that clARMOR properly builds using the compilers defined in the CC and CXX environment variables
  • make check will run cppcheck, a static code analyzer, over all of the tools and tests that are included in the package.
  • make pylint will run pylint over all of the Python files in the project.
  • scan-build make can be used to verify that the Clang Static Analyzer does not find any problems in the tool. Shipping versions should come back clean in contemporary versions of scan-build at the time they ship.

The functional tests ('-t' option) are:

  • make test will run a series of programs from the tests/ subdirectory (which are further describes in tests/README.txt). If GPU devices are not supported by the OpenCL runtime, this test does not run.
  • make cpu_test will run the same tests as the normal make test, but will ensure that they run on the CPU. This is useful for testing on systems that do not have a GPU. This requires an OpenCL runtime that allows kernels to run on the CPU. If CPU-side tests are not supported, this does not run.

clARMOR Limitations

clARMOR is useful for finding write-based buffer overflows in buffers created using OpenCL APIs and caused by OpenCL APIs or OpenCL kernels. It does not attempt to find buffer overflows from host-side functions that may write into OpenCL buffer regions. For instance, mapping a buffer and then writing outside of the mapped region will not necessarily be detected. If this is detected, it may be mis-attributed.

In addition, because of the manner in which the canaries are checked (the checks are performed after the real kernel has completed), this tool offers no security guarantees. An OpenCL buffer overflow that allows an attacker to take control of the application may not be observed, since a dedicated attacker could prevent the canary checker from working.

Nevertheless, this tool has been used to find buffer overflows in real OpenCL applications, and it is useful as a debugging and development mechanism. It has been carefully designed to attempt to reduce the runtime overheads it causes. It will detect overflows in cl_mem buffers, coarse-grained SVM, and memory buffers for n-dimensional images.

Currently, this tool does not detect the following types of overflows:

  1. Buffer overflows in the __private, __local, or __constant memory spaces.
  2. Buffer overflows caused by reads (since these do not disrupt the canary regions).