Author dmalcolm
Recipients Arach, Arfrever, Huzaifa.Sidhpurwala, Jim.Jewett, Mark.Shannon, PaulMcMillan, Zhiping.Deng, alex, barry, benjamin.peterson, christian.heimes, dmalcolm, eric.snow, fx5, georg.brandl, grahamd, gregory.p.smith, gvanrossum, gz, haypo, jcea, lemburg, mark.dickinson, merwok, neologix, pitrou, skrah, terry.reedy, tim.peters, v+python, zbysz
Date 2012-01-21.17:02:53
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On Sat, 2012-01-21 at 14:27 +0000, Antoine Pitrou wrote:
> Antoine Pitrou <> added the comment:
> > Thoughts? (apart from "ugh! it's ugly!" yes I know - it's late here)
> Is it guaranteed that no usage pattern can render this protection
> inefficient? What if a dict is constructed by intermingling lookups and
> inserts?
> Similarly, what happens with e.g. the common use case of
> dictdefault(list), where you append() after the lookup/insert? Does some
> key distribution allow the attack while circumventing the protection?

Yes, I agree that I was making an unrealistic assumption about usage
patterns.  There was also some global state (the "is_inserting"

I've tweaked the approach somewhat, moved the global to be per-dict, and
am attaching a revised version of the patch:

In this patch, rather than reset the count each time, I keep track of
the total number of calls to insertdict() that have happened for each
"large dict" (i.e. for which ma_table != ma_smalltable), and the total
number of probe iterations that have been needed to service those
insertions/overwrites.  It raises the exception when the *number of
probe iterations per insertion* exceeds a threshold factor (rather than
merely comparing the number of iterations against the current ma_used of
the dict).  I believe this means that it's tracking and checking every
time the dict is modified, and (I hope) protects us against any data
that drives the dict implementation away from linear behavior (because
that's essentially what it's testing for).  [the per-dict stats are
reset each time that it shrinks down to using ma_smalltable again, but I
think at-risk usage patterns in which that occurs are uncommon relative
to those in which it doesn't].

When attacked, this leads to exceptions like this:
AlgorithmicComplexityError: dict construction used 1697 probes whilst
performing 53 insertions (len() == 58) at key 58 with hash 42

i.e we have a dictionary containing 58 keys, which has seen 53
insert/overwrite operations since transitioning to the non-ma_smalltable
representation (at size 6); presumably it has 128 PyDictEntries.
Servicing those 53 operations has required a total 1697 iterations
through the probing loop, or a little over 32 probes per insert.

I just did a full run of the test suite (using, and it
mostly passed the new tests I've added (included the test for scenario 2
from Frank's email).

There were two failures:
FAIL: test_inheritance (test.test_pep352.ExceptionClassTests)
AssertionError: 1 != 0 : {'AlgorithmicComplexityError'} not accounted
which is obviously fixable (given a decision on where the exception
lives in the hierarchy)

and this one:
test test_mutants crashed -- Traceback (most recent call last):
"/home/david/coding/python-hg/cpython-count-collisions/Lib/test/", line 1214, in runtest_inner
    the_package = __import__(abstest, globals(), locals(), [])
"/home/david/coding/python-hg/cpython-count-collisions/Lib/test/", line 159, in <module>
"/home/david/coding/python-hg/cpython-count-collisions/Lib/test/", line 156, in test
    test_one(random.randrange(1, 100))
"/home/david/coding/python-hg/cpython-count-collisions/Lib/test/", line 132, in test_one
    dict2keys = fill_dict(dict2, range(n), n)
"/home/david/coding/python-hg/cpython-count-collisions/Lib/test/", line 118, in fill_dict
AlgorithmicComplexityError: dict construction used 2753 probes whilst
performing 86 insertions (len() == 64) at key Horrid(86) with hash 42
though that seems to be deliberately degenerate code.

* no overflow handling (what happens after 2**32 modifications to a
long-lived dict on a 32-bit build?) - though that's fixable.
* no idea what the scaling factor for the threshold should be (there may
also be a deep mathematical objection here, based on how big-O notation
is defined in terms of an arbitrary scaling factor and limit)
* not optimized; I haven't looked at performance yet
* doesn't cover set(), though that also has spare space (I hope) via its
own smalltable array.

BTW, note that although I've been working on this variant of the
collision counting approach, I'm not opposed to the hash randomization
approach, or to adding extra checks in strategic places within the
stdlib: I'm keen to get some kind of appropriate fix approved by the
upstream Python development community so I can backport it to the
various recent-to-ancient versions of CPython I support in RHEL (and
Fedora), before we start seeing real-world attacks.

Hope this is helpful
File name Uploaded
amortized-probe-counting-dmalcolm-2012-01-21-003.patch dmalcolm, 2012-01-21.17:02:53
Date User Action Args
2012-01-21 17:02:57dmalcolmsetrecipients: + dmalcolm, lemburg, gvanrossum, tim.peters, barry, georg.brandl, terry.reedy, gregory.p.smith, jcea, mark.dickinson, pitrou, haypo, christian.heimes, benjamin.peterson, merwok, grahamd, Arfrever, v+python, alex, zbysz, skrah, gz, neologix, Arach, Mark.Shannon, eric.snow, Zhiping.Deng, Huzaifa.Sidhpurwala, Jim.Jewett, PaulMcMillan, fx5
2012-01-21 17:02:55dmalcolmlinkissue13703 messages
2012-01-21 17:02:53dmalcolmcreate