In the last post, I showed how an unlinked library function invokes ld. In this post, I will show what happens in ld.

I talk about how eglibc does runtime linking in the current Ubuntu 14.04.1. However, it seems the two libraries glibc and eglibc have reconciled their past differences and eglibc has been discontinued. So, likely, Ubuntu will use glibc again in 15.

In any event, the two should be next to identical.

Find the sources for /lib/ in the eglibc package inside the elf directory.

$ apt-get source eglibc


So, we left off in the last post with the binary jumping in the PLT to _dl_fixup,

 80482f6:  push   0x0                      ; push index of puts in GOT
 80482e0:  push   DWORD PTR ds:0x804a004   ; push address of link_map
 80482e6:  jmp    DWORD PTR ds:0x804a008   ; jump to _dl_fixup() in ld

which is located in dl-runtime.c:

// dl-runtime.c 
_dl_fixup (struct link_map *l, ElfW(Word) reloc_arg)

  // ...
  result = _dl_lookup_symbol_x (strtab + sym->st_name, l, &sym, l->l_scope,
				    version, ELF_RTYPE_CLASS_PLT, flags, NULL);

Notice the function takes two arguments.

The address pushed at 0x80482e0 is an address to a link_map structure and the reloc_arg argument is the index pushed for puts at 0x80482e0.

In our example, puts is the only function and is thus at index 0x0.

Without going into much detail, a link_map struct is maintained by ld for all objects, the binary and linked libraries, and contains the important addresses and state for linking.

You could consider the link_map the linker’s internal representation of an ELF.


Ultimately, _dl_fixup calls the _dl_lookup_symbol_x function which uses reloc_arg (0x0 in our example) as index into the .rel.plt section:

Relocation section '.rel.plt' at offset 0x298 contains 3 entries:
 Offset     Info    Type            Sym.Value  Sym. Name
0804a00c  00000107 R_386_JUMP_SLOT   00000000   puts
0804a010  00000207 R_386_JUMP_SLOT   00000000   __gmon_start__
0804a014  00000307 R_386_JUMP_SLOT   00000000   __libc_start_main

From the .rel.plt, _dl_lookup_symbol_x uses the Info field as an index into the .symtab section:

Symbol table '.symtab' contains 67 entries:
   Num:    Value  Size Type    Bind   Vis      Ndx Name
    52: 00000000     0 FUNC    GLOBAL DEFAULT  UND puts@@GLIBC_2.0

Finally, _dl_lookup_symbol_x uses the Name field, puts@GLIBC_2.0, to perform a scoped lookup of the function on other objects.

What is really interesting is how it actually searches other objects. It would be very inefficient to perform a linear search of all other objects .dynsym tables.

Actually, ld uses the .hash and .gnu.hash sections, which store hashes of the symbol names.

There are two implementations the SYSV hash and the newer GNU method.

GNU hashing uses a bucketed bloom filter, you may have noticed in the readelf output:

readelf -a /lib/i386-linux-gnu/

Histogram for `.gnu.hash' bucket list length (total of 1011 buckets):
 Length  Number     % of total  Coverage
      0  100        (  9.9%)
      1  219        ( 21.7%)      9.2%
      2  260        ( 25.7%)     31.0%
      3  211        ( 20.9%)     57.6%
      4  133        ( 13.2%)     80.0%
      5  59         (  5.8%)     92.4%
      6  22         (  2.2%)     97.9%
      7  6          (  0.6%)     99.7%
      8  1          (  0.1%)    100.0%

Find out more in this article: