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Fuzzing a Pixel 3a Kernel with Syzkaller

·11 mins

Preface #

Syzkaller has been the buzzword ever since I started learning kernel exploitation. It’s the go-to tool for kernel fuzzing and has harvested countless bugs in various kernels like Linux, Windows or even XNU (check out the list of found bugs here).

However, setting up Syzkaller isn’t a straight forward task. To navigate Syzkaller through the maze of the kernel binary, one has to compile the kernel with Kernel Address Sanitizer(KASAN) and Kernel Coverage(KCOV), wrap it in a fresh boot image and flash to the device. It was a puzzling process with many caveats await.

This article is nothing spectacular but a truthful record of my Android kernel fuzzing setup on Pixel 3a. The setup was tested on the latest android-10.0.0_r30 (security patch level 2020-03-05) and kernel android-msm-bonito-4.9-android10 (last commit e39531f0f61ba9c074d712b539897679b76a0ef5 on 2020-01-08).

What’s new in 2020 #

If you have done some googling, soon you should find this Android team’s official guide on “Building a Pixel kernel with KASAN+KCOV”. Spoiler alert: it’s outdated. The guide used Pixel XL(marlin) as a test device, which was released way back in October 2016. Moreover, Syzkaller has a few specific setup requirements which we have to carefully integrate into our kernel building process.

Here are a couple of key things that closely relevant to our fuzzing setup:


    I didn’t notice this until the very late stage. Previously I was building the kernel on a remote server(more powerful), flash it to the device and connect it to another local machine running Syzkaller. However, Syzkaller failed to create any coverage report in this setup.

    It turned out that CONFIG_DEBUG_INFO (a kernel option that adds debug symbol to the kernel, as required by Syzkaller) will put the full path of kernel source files into the final image. Syzkaller extracts these file paths directly from the kernel and uses them to retrieve the source code on the localhost. Obviously, these remote paths won’t exist locally. How to avoid this? Build the kernel on the machine that runs Syzkaller.

  2. A final farewell to GCC

    GCC is no longer supported in Android’s toolchain in 2020. If you follow the guide and compile kernels with Android’s GCC toolchain, you’ll see this message:

    > make clean
    Android GCC has been deprecated in favor of Clang, and will be removed from
    Android in 2020-01 as per the deprecation plan in:

    But why switch to Clang? As answered by Android’s team here, Clang build provides many sanitizer(integer overflow sanitizer, address sanitizer, etc.), better diagnostics and stronger security features(control flow integrity and safe stack). In fact, Google has been shipping Clang-built kernels since the release of Pixel 2 (Oct 2017).

    Because the Pixel 3a kernel source is written with Clang in mind, it’s of our best interest to keep the setup as close to Google as possible to reduce potential issues. Hence, we will be using Android’s official Clang toolchain in this guide.

  3. Build-in KASAN config in the Android kernel

    In Google’s old guide, you have to manually reconfigure the kernel to enable some options (e.g. CONFIG_KASAN=y). Now things just got easier: new Pixel 3a kernel has provided a default build config build.config.bonito_kasan under the root directory, which conveniently helps you to setup all the kernel options. We will talk about how to make use of this later.

  4. Pixel 3a has drivers as kernel modules

    Pixel 3a’s Wifi and touch screen driver are provided as kernel drivers. How do we know? Enter lsmod on a Pixel 3a should give you the answer.

    sargo:/ # lsmod
    Module                  Size  Used by
    wlan                 9433088  0
    synaptics_dsx_rmi_dev    28672  0
    synaptics_dsx_test_reporting    53248  0
    synaptics_dsx_fw_update    49152  0
    synaptics_dsx_core     61440  3 synaptics_dsx_rmi_dev,synaptics_dsx_test_reporting,synaptics_dsx_fw_update

    Why does this matter to us? Because later you will notice wifi and touch screen stop working on our customised kernel due to kernel’s module versioning(CONFIG_MODVER) and vermagic mechanism.

    (2021/03 Update) More details is covered in this follow-up post , including guides on how to fix the issue.

Building a pixel 3a kernel with KCOV+KASAN #

To summarise, you’ll have to:

  1. Download AOSP and proprietary binaries

  2. Setup sargo kernel and the Clang toolchain

  3. Modify the kernel

  4. Add the kernel to the boot image and build AOSP

  5. Testing KASAN setup

  6. Download AOSP and proprietary binaries

    Check AOSP version here( and take note of the tag. Then download AOSP:

    > cd ~ & mkdir aosp_10 & cd aosp_10
    > repo init -u -b android-10.0.0_r30
    > repo sync

    Find the proprietary binaries for Pixel 3a here ( and download all of them.

    > cd ~ & mkdir vendor_dl & cd vendor_dl
    > wget
    > wget
    #extract vendor image
    > tar zxvf google_devices-sargo-qq2a.200305.002-c6903416.tgz
    > ./
    > tar zxvf qcom-sargo-qq2a.200305.002-da823dc1.tgz
    > ./
    # copy extracted vendor directory to aosp's root
    > cp vendor ../aosp_10

    Check device dependencies. Make sure your device meets the requirements (You can find them in the Settings).


    > cat vendor/google_devices/sargo/android-info.txt
    require board=bonito|sargo
    require version-bootloader=b4s4-0.2-6066691
    require version-baseband=g670-00036-200114-B-6134202
  7. Setup sargo kernel and the Clang toolchain

    Goto check available branches. Here we choose the latest android-msm-bonito-4.9-android10 branch.

    > cd ~ & mkdir bonito-kernel-4.9-android-10
    > cd bonito-kernel-4.9-android-10/
    > git clone
    > cd msm
    # switch to desired branch
    > git checkout android-msm-bonito-4.9-android10

    Following AOSP’s official guide (, we can now download the nicely wrapped Clang toolchain in one shot.

    > cd ~ & mkdir toolchain & cd toolchain
    > repo init -u -b android-msm-bonito-4.9-android10
    > repo sync
    > ls -lah
    total 32K
    drwxrwxr-x  7 yuli yuli 4.0K Apr  2 12:50 .
    drwxr-xr-x 29 yuli yuli 4.0K Apr 13 19:05 ..
    drwxrwxr-x  9 yuli yuli 4.0K Mar 30 12:22 build
    lrwxrwxrwx  1 yuli yuli   61 Apr  2 00:34 build.config -> private/msm-google/build.config.bonito_no-cfi
    drwxrwxr-x  4 yuli yuli 4.0K Apr  2 12:50 out
    drwxrwxr-x  3 yuli yuli 4.0K Mar 30 12:22 prebuilts
    drwxrwxr-x  4 yuli yuli 4.0K Mar 30 12:22 prebuilts-master
    drwxrwxr-x  4 yuli yuli 4.0K Mar 30 12:22 private
    drwxrwxr-x  7 yuli yuli 4.0K Mar 30 12:22 .repo
    # private contains a copy of default pixel 3a kernel, delete this since we want to supply our selected branch
    > rm -rf private
    # remove the default config
    > rm build.config

    Go to the folder that contains the kernel we have just downloaded, open build.config.bonito_kasan and update KERNEL_DIR. KERNEL_DIR should be a relevant path starting from the toolchain folder.

    # file build.config.bonito_kasan
    # our kernel path

    Lastly, add this file as a symlink to the toolchain folder.

    > ln -s build.config.bonito_kasan ../toolchain/build.config
  8. Modify and build the kernel

    Since KASAN changes the kernel memory layout, we have to change it to a KASAN-specific setting. Open aosp_10/device/google/bonito/ and comment/uncomment as follows:

    # ifeq ($(filter-out bonito_kasan sargo_kasan, $(TARGET_PRODUCT)),)
    BOARD_KERNEL_OFFSET      := 0x80000
    BOARD_KERNEL_TAGS_OFFSET := 0x02500000
    BOARD_RAMDISK_OFFSET     := 0x02700000
    BOARD_MKBOOTIMG_ARGS     := --kernel_offset $(BOARD_KERNEL_OFFSET) --ramdisk_offset $(BOARD_RAMDISK_OFFSET) --tags_offset $(BOARD_KERNEL_TAGS_OFFSET)
    # else
    # BOARD_KERNEL_TAGS_OFFSET := 0x01E00000
    # BOARD_RAMDISK_OFFSET     := 0x02000000
    # endif

    Additionally, Skykaller requires a dozen kernel configs as described here. I chose the first half without some “debugging configs”(some will cause the device to fail boot). Notice you will have to make changes through build.config.bonito_kasan because the build script build/ will check the integrity of the original defconfig file before proceed.

    @@ -14,13 +14,34 @@ function update_kasan_config() {
                -d CONFIG_KASAN_OUTLINE \
                -d CONFIG_RANDOMIZE_BASE \
                -d CONFIG_CC_WERROR \
                --set-val CONFIG_FRAME_WARN 0 \
    +         -e CONFIG_DEBUG_FS \
    +         -e CONFIG_DEBUG_INFO \
    +         -e CONFIG_KALLSYMS \
    +         -e CONFIG_KALLSYMS_ALL \
    +         -e CONFIG_NAMESPACES \
    +         -e CONFIG_UTS_NS \
    +         -e CONFIG_IPC_NS \
    +         -e CONFIG_PID_NS \
    +         -e CONFIG_NET_NS \
    +         -e CONFIG_CGROUP_PIDS \
    +         -e CONFIG_MEMCG \
    +         -e CONFIG_USER_NS \
    +         -e CONFIG_FAULT_INJECTION \
    +         -e CONFIG_FAILSLAB \
    +         -e CONFIG_FAIL_PAGE_ALLOC \
    +         -e CONFIG_FAIL_MAKE_REQUEST \
    +         -e CONFIG_FAIL_IO_TIMEOUT \
    +         -e CONFIG_FAIL_FUTEX \
                -d LTO \
                -d LTO_CLANG \
                -d CFI \
                -d CFI_PERMISSIVE \
                -d CFI_CLANG \

    Once the preparation is done, you can build the kernel by a simple one-liner.

    # build the kernel, using build.config by default 
    > cd ~/toolchain & ./build/
    # copy the kernel binary to AOSP source tree
    > cp ./out/bonito-kernel-4.9-android-10/msm/arch/arm64/boot/Image.lz4 ~/aosp_10/device/google/bonito-kernel/
  9. Add the kernel to the boot image and build AOSP

    > cd ~/aosp_10
    > source build/
    > lunch aosp_sargo-userdebug
    # build all images
    # Although we only need boot.img, but later we need adb root access 
    # to open dmesg and check kasan output. Hence for the first time round, 
    # we'll have to build everything and flash all images to the device
    > m -j48
    # in future if just want build boot.img
    > m bootimage -j48
    [100% 13921/13921] Target boot image from recovery: out/target/product/sargo/boot.img
  10. Testing KASAN setup

    As mentioned earlier, if your device wasn’t running in userdebug flavor, you have to flash all images(built from the last step) first. You can download the factory image from here(, and use the provided []( script to conveniently flash all images to the device.

    Boot from our new kernel and print out the kernel message. You should see this line of output: kasan: KernelAddressSanitizer initialized .

    > adb reboot fastboot
    # just reboot from our new kernel without flashing it
    > fastboot boot boot_no_modver.img
    # after reboot
    > adb root & adb shell
    sargo:/ # dmesg


Running Syzkaller #

Finally, the Syzkaller: ) ~~The good news is that running Syzkaller is a much easier task. Syzkaller supports adb out-of-the-box so all you have to do is to plug in your device and enjoy fuzzing. (~~No. the official setup guide covered only a bare minimum to get Syzkaller running. More have to be done to correctly enable Syzkaller’s coverage report.)

Let us follow the official guide to setup first. Notice that Syzkaller won’t build for TARGETOS=arm64 on OS X so you should find a Linux machine and continue this guide.

# download cross-compile toolchains
> sudo apt-get install wget git g++-aarch64-linux-gnu gcc-aarch64-linux-gnu

# download and build Syzkaller
# follow
> wget
> tar -xf go1.13.8.linux-amd64.tar.gz
> mv go goroot
> mkdir gopath
> export GOPATH=`pwd`/gopath
> export GOROOT=`pwd`/goroot
> export PATH=$GOPATH/bin:$PATH
> export PATH=$GOROOT/bin:$PATH

# build syzkaller
> go get -u -d
> cd gopath/src/
> make TARGETOS=linux TARGETARCH=arm64

# Syzkaller relies on binutils to extract coverage information
# (see the screenshot below). As we are in a cross-arch environment,
# we should use the aarch64 version of these tools.
# Reference: [](
mkdir -p ~/bin/aarch64
ln -s `which aarch64-linux-gnu-addr2line` ~/bin/aarch64/addr2line
ln -s `which aarch64-linux-gnu-nm` ~/bin/aarch64/nm
ln -s `which aarch64-linux-gnu-objdump` ~/bin/aarch64/objdump
ln -s `which aarch64-linux-gnu-readelf` ~/bin/aarch64/readelf
export PATH=~/bin/aarch64:$PATH

# Connect your phone and check connected devices
> adb devices
List of devices attached
941AY0HLN7	device


Then create a adb.cfg file under the Syzkaller folder. Take notes that

  • Remember to replace the device identifier with the ID that saw in the previous step
  • Set kernel_obj to be the root of kernel’s out folder, the one that contains vmlinux file
  • Set kernel_src to be the root of kernel’s source code
    "target": "linux/arm64",
    "http": "localhost:50000",
    "workdir": "/home/senyuuri/gopath/src/",
    "syzkaller": "/home/senyuuri/gopath/src/",
    "kernel_obj": "/home/senyuuri/workspace/bonito_kernel_build_tools/out/bonito-kernel-4.9-android-10/",
    "kernel_src": "/home/senyuuri/workspace/bonito-kernel-4.9-android-10/",
    "sandbox": "none",
    "procs": 8,
    "type": "adb",
    "vm": {
        "devices": ["941AY0HLN7"]

Now happy fuzzing : )

[email protected]:~/gopath/src/$ ./bin/syz-manager -config=adb.cfg
2020/04/14 22:18:40 loading corpus...
2020/04/14 22:18:40 serving http on
2020/04/14 22:18:40 serving rpc on tcp://[::]:44885
2020/04/14 22:18:40 booting test machines...
2020/04/14 22:18:40 wait for the connection from test machine...
2020/04/14 22:19:26 failed to associate adb device 941AY0HLN7 with console: no unassociated console devices left
2020/04/14 22:19:26 falling back to 'adb shell dmesg -w'
2020/04/14 22:19:26 note: some bugs may be detected as 'lost connection to test machine' with no kernel output
2020/04/14 22:19:26 device 941AY0HLN7: battery level 100%, OK
2020/04/14 22:19:28 machine check:
2020/04/14 22:19:28 syscalls                : 1783/3271
2020/04/14 22:19:28 code coverage           : enabled
2020/04/14 22:19:28 comparison tracing      : CONFIG_KCOV_ENABLE_COMPARISONS is not enabled
2020/04/14 22:19:28 extra coverage          : extra coverage is not supported by the kernel
2020/04/14 22:19:28 setuid sandbox          : enabled
2020/04/14 22:19:28 namespace sandbox       : /proc/self/ns/user does not exist
2020/04/14 22:19:28 Android sandbox         : enabled
2020/04/14 22:19:28 fault injection         : CONFIG_FAULT_INJECTION is not enabled
2020/04/14 22:19:28 leak checking           : CONFIG_DEBUG_KMEMLEAK is not enabled
2020/04/14 22:19:28 net packet injection    : /dev/net/tun does not exist
2020/04/14 22:19:28 net device setup        : enabled
2020/04/14 22:19:28 concurrency sanitizer   : /sys/kernel/debug/kcsan does not exist
2020/04/14 22:19:28 devlink PCI setup       : PCI device 0000:00:10.0 is not available
2020/04/14 22:19:28 USB emulation           : /dev/raw-gadget does not exist
2020/04/14 22:19:28 corpus                  : 0 (deleted 0 broken, 0 too long)
2020/04/14 22:19:30 VMs 1, executed 1, cover 0, crashes 0, repro 0
2020/04/14 22:19:37 vm-0: crash: panic:LINE, dump:LINE
2020/04/14 22:19:37 reproducing crash 'panic:LINE, dump:LINE': 15 programs, 1 VMs, timeouts [15s 1m0s 6m0s]
2020/04/14 22:19:40 VMs 0, executed 1, cover 3144, crashes 1, repro 1
2020/04/14 22:19:50 VMs 0, executed 1, cover 3144, crashes 1, repro 1

The report is available at


Click on the cover link( to view the coverage report.