annobin man page

annobin — Annobin



Binary Annotation is a method for recording information about an application inside the application itself.  It is an implementation of the "Watermark" specification defined here: <>

Although mainly focused on recording security information, the system can be used to record any kind of data, even data not related to the application.  One of the main goals of the system however is the ability to specify the address range over which a given piece of information is valid.  So for example it is possible to specify that all of a program was compiled with the -O2 option except for one special function which was compiled with -O0 instead.

The range information is useful because it allows third parties to examine the binary and find out if its construction was consistent. Ie that there are no gaps in the recorded information, and no special cases where a required feature was not active.

The system works by adding a special section to the application containing individual pieces of information along with an address range for which the information is valid.  (Some effort has gone into the storing this information in a reasonably compact format).

The information is generated by a plugin that is attached to the "gcc" compiler.  (This is just one method for generating the information.  Any interested party can create and add information to the binary, providing that they follow the Watermark specification). This plugin is called "annobin".  It uses information obtained from the compiler to record details such as the ABI variant in use and the hardening options applied.

The information can be extracted from files via the use of tools like "readelf".  The "annobin" package includes a set of sample scripts that use "readelf" in this way to check various features of an application, such as its conformation to the hardening requirements, or possible ABI violations.

Normally the option to enable the recording of binary annotation notes is enabled automatically by the build system, so no user intervention is required.  On Fedora and RHEL based systems this is handled by the redhat-rpm-config package.

Currently the binary annotations are generated by a plugin to the "GCC" compiler called annobin.  This does mean that files that are not compiled with "GCC" will not gain any binary annotations.  Solving this problem is one of the future goals of the annobin project.

If the build system being used does not automatically enabled the annobin plugin then it can be specifically added to the gcc command line by adding the -fplugin=annobin option.  It may also be necessary to tell gcc where to find plugins by adding the -iplugindir= option, although this should only be necessary if the plugin is installed in a separate place from "gcc".

If it is desired to disable the recording of binary annotations then the -fplugin-arg-annobin-disable can be used, although this must be placed after the -fplugin=annobin option.

On Fedora and RHEL systems the plugin can be disabled entirely for all compilations in a package by adding %undefine _annotated_build to the spec file.

The plugin also accepts a small selection of command line arguments, all accessed by passing -fplugin-arg-annobin-<option> on the gcc command line.  These options must be placed on the gcc command line after the plugin itself is mentioned.  The options are:

The information is stored in the ELF Note format in a special section called "".  The "readelf" program from the "binutils" package can extract and display these notes when the --notes option is provided.  (Adding the --wide option is also helpful).  Here is an example of the output:

        Displaying notes found in:
          Owner                        Data size        Description
          GA$<version>3p3              0x00000010       OPEN        Applies to region from 0x8a0 to 0x8c6 (hello.c)
          GA$<tool>gcc 7.2.1 20170915  0x00000000       OPEN        Applies to region from 0x8a0 to 0x8c6
          GA*GOW:0x452b                0x00000000       OPEN        Applies to region from 0x8a0 to 0x8c6
          GA*<stack prot>strong        0x00000000       OPEN        Applies to region from 0x8a0 to 0x8c6
          GA*GOW:0x412b                0x00000010       func        Applies to region from 0x8c0 to 0x8c6 (baz)

This shows various different pieces of information, including the fact that the notes were produced using version 3 of the specification, and version 3 of the plugin.  The binary was built by gcc version 7.2.1 and the -fstack-protector-strong option was enabled on the command line.  The program was compiled with -O2 enabled except the baz() function which was compiled with -O0 instead.

The most complicated part of the notes is the owner field.  This is used to encode the type of note as well as its value and possibly extra data as well.  The format of the field is explained in detail in the Watermark specification, but it basically consists of the letters G and A followed by an encoding character (one of *$!+) and then a type character and finally the value.



Either disable or enable the plugin.  The default is for the plugin to be enabled.


Display a list of supported options on the standard output.  This is in addition to whatever else the plugin has been instructed to do.


Display the version of the plugin on the standard output.  This is in addition to whatever else the plugin has been instructed to do.


Report the actions that the plugin is taking.  If invoked for a second time on the command line the plugin will be very verbose.


Report the generation of function specific notes.  This indicates that the named function was compiled with different options from those that were globally enabled.


Do not, or do, record information for the dynamic loader.  The default is to record this information.


Do not, or do, record information for static analysis.  The default is to record this information.


Do, or do not, record information about the stack requirements of functions in the executable.  This feature is disabled by default as these notes can take up a lot of extra room if the executable contains a lot of functions.


If stack size requirements are being recorded then this option sets the minimum value to record.  Functions which require less than "N" bytes of static stack space will not have their requirements recorded.  If not set, then "N" defaults to 1024.


If enabled the global-file-syms option will create globally visible, unique symbols to mark the start and end of the compiled code.  This can be desirable if a program consists of multiple source files with the same name, or if it links to a library that was built with source files of the same name as the program itself.  The disadvantage of this feature however is that the unique names are based upon the time of the build, so repeated builds of the same source will have different symbol names inside it.  This breaks the functionality of the build-id system which is meant to identify similar builds created at different times.  This feature is disabled by default, and if enabled can be disabled again via the no-global-file-syms option.


2018-04-20 annobin-1 RPM Development Tools