Parasite code

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Parasite code is a binary blob of code built in PIE format for execution inside another process address space. The main and only purpose of the parasite code is to execute CRIU service routines inside dumpee tasks address space.

Using the parasite

All architecture independent code calling for parasite service routines is sitting in parasite-syscall.c file. When we need to run parasite code inside some dumpee task we:

  1. Move task into that named seized state with ptrace(PTRACE_SEIZE, …) helper (thus task get stopped but does not notice that someone outside is trying to manipulate it).
  2. Inject and execute mmap syscall inside dumpee address space with help of ptrace system call, because we need to allocate a shared memory area which will be used for parasite stack and parameters exchange between CRIU and dumpee.
  3. Open local copy of shared memory space from /proc/$PID/map_files/, where $PID is process identificator of a dumpee.

All these actions are gathered in parasite_infect_seized() helper. Once parasite is prepared and placed into dumpee address space, CRIU can call for parasite service routines.

There are two modes the parasite can operate in:

  1. Trap mode
  2. Daemon mode

In trap mode parasite simply executes one command and yields cpu trap instruction which CRIU intercepts. This is like one command at a time mode.

In daemon mode (as name implies) parasite behaves like a unix daemon - it opens a unix socket and start listening for commands on it. Once command received it get handled and daemon returns result back via socket packet, then it continue listening for the next command and etc. All currently known commands are assembled as PARASITE_CMD_… enum in parasite.h header.

Parasite internal structure

Internally parasite might be represented as following blocks


Parasite bootstrap code written in assembly language, which is specific for every architecture (x86, arm, arm64), in turn parasite daemon is common for all architectures and written in C language. We consider only x86 architecture here but other architectures have the similar approach.

While all blocks on the image above are self descriptive the sigframe (signal frame) block requires some comments. Its main purpose is to handle rt_sigreturn() system call which we use to restore victim’s execution context (registers and etc). It should be prepared by caller setting up original registers values and etc the victim has at the moment of parasite injection.

Parasite bootstrap

Parasite bootstrap lives in parasite-head.S file and simply adjusts own stack and literally call the daemon entry point. Right after the call there is trapping instruction placed which triggers the notification to a caller that parasite has finished its work if been running in trap mode. When parasite is running in daemon mode the notifications are a bit more complex and will be considered later.

Parasite daemon

Parasite daemon code lives in pie/parasite.c file. Its entry point is parasite_daemon(). Upon enter it opens command socket which is used to communicate with the caller. Once socket is opened the daemon comes to sleep waiting for command to appear.


Because the whole parasite memory block is a shared memory slab data exchange between CRIU and dumpee is regular read/write operations into arguments area while commands are sent as network packets.

Curing dumpee from parasite code

Once everything is done and we no longer need parasite we are removing it from the dumpee address space in several steps:

  1. CRIU start tracing the syscalls parasite is executing with help of ptrace
  2. Send PARASITE_CMD_FINI to parasite via control socket
  3. Parasite receives it, then closes control socket and executes rt_sigreturn() system call
  4. CRIU intercept exit from this syscall and unmaps parasite memory area, thus victim become into the state it was before parasite injection

See also