GWP-ASan is a debug tool intended to detect heap memory errors in the wild. It samples allocations to a debug allocator, similar to ElectricFence or Page Heap, causing memory errors to crash and report additional debugging context about the error.
The GuardedPageAllocator returns allocations on pages buffered on both sides by guard pages. The allocations are either left- or right-aligned to detect buffer overflows and underflows. When an allocation is freed, the page is marked inaccessible so use-after-frees cause an exception (until that page is reused for another allocation.)
The allocator saves stack traces on every allocation and deallocation to preserve debug context if that allocation results in a memory error.
The allocator implements a quarantine mechanism by allocating virtual memory for more allocations than the total number of allocations it can return. The difference forms a rudimentary quarantine as not all allocations can be taken at a given time.
Allocations are sampled to the GuardedPageAllocator using an allocator shim.
The allocator is designed so that memory errors with GWP-ASan allocations intentionally trigger invalid access exceptions. A hook in the crashpad crash handler process inspects crashes, determines if they are GWP-ASan exceptions, and adds additional debug information to the crash minidump if so.
The crash handler hook determines if the exception was related to GWP-ASan by reading the allocator internals and seeing if the exception address was within the bounds of the allocator region. If it is, the crash handler hook extracts debug information about that allocation, such as thread IDs and stack traces for allocation (and deallocation, if relevant) and writes it to the crash dump.
The crash handler runs with elevated privileges so parsing information from a lesser-privileged process is security sensitive. The GWP-ASan hook is specially structured to minimize the amount of allocator logic it relies on and to validate the allocator internals before reasoning about them.
GWP-ASan is currently only implemented for the system allocator (e.g. not PartitionAlloc) on Windows. It is not currently enabled by default, but can be enabled using the following command-line switches (with adjustable parameters):
chrome --enable-features="GwpAsanMalloc<Study" \ --force-fieldtrials=Study/Group1 \ --force-fieldtrial-params=Study.Group1:MaxAllocations/32/TotalPages/128/AllocationSamplingFrequency/1000/ProcessSamplingProbability/1.0
A hotlist of bugs discovered by by GWP-ASan exists, though the bugs are filed without external visibility by default.
There is not yet a way to intentionally trigger a GWP-ASan exception.
There is not yet a way to inspect GWP-ASan data in the minidump (crash report).