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Create eBPF probe module

This tutorial goes through the development of a simple Pulsar module that watches for new file creations. For a complete and working example, see the file-system-monitor module.

Locating the best hook point with bpftrace

bpftrace is a great tool for trying out the various eBPF connection points. If you haven't yet, go check the one-liner tutorial.

When trying out new things, you start by looking for existing solutions. Key examples include the bpftrace and bcc tool collections.

Going back to our example, it turns out we can intercept file creations using the security_inode_create function:

bpftrace -e 'kfunc:security_inode_create { printf("%s: %s\n", comm, str(args->dentry->}'

If you are curious about the various interesting hook points you can check out the LSM attach points.

With all the necessary information gathered with the help of bpftrace, we can start the actual development.


We create a new Rust crate and we'll call it file_created.

name = "file_created"
version = "0.1.0"
edition = "2021"

test-suite = ["bpf-common/test-utils"]

bpf-common = { path = "../../bpf-common" }
pulsar-core = { path = "../../pulsar-core" }
nix = "0.24.0"
tokio = { version = "1", features = ["full"] }

bpf-common = { path = "../../bpf-common", features = ["build"] }

The most important dependency is bpf-common, which re-exports aya and contains some useful utilities for running, building and testing probes.

Next we create write a simple eBPF program, we'll name it probe.bpf.c.

#include "common.bpf.h"

char LICENSE[] SEC("license") = "Dual BSD/GPL";

int security_inodei_create(struct pt_regs *ctx) {
return 0;

We create in order to build the program.

fn main() -> Result<(), Box<dyn std::error::Error>> {

The module implementation in Rust is also relatively short.

use std::fmt;

use bpf_common::{
aya::include_bytes_aligned, parsing::StringArray, program::BpfContext, BpfSender, Program,
ProgramBuilder, ProgramError,

pub async fn program(
ctx: BpfContext,
sender: impl BpfSender<EventT>,
) -> Result<Program, ProgramError> {
let program = ProgramBuilder::new(
include_bytes_aligned!(concat!(env!("OUT_DIR"), "/probe.bpf.o")).into(),
program.read_events("events", sender).await?;

const NAME_MAX: usize = 264;
pub enum EventT {
FileCreated { filename: StringArray<NAME_MAX> },

impl fmt::Display for EventT {
fn fmt(&self, f: &mut fmt::Formatter<'_>) -> fmt::Result {
match self {
EventT::FileCreated { filename } => write!(f, "{}", filename),

The central part of the module is the program function, which:

  • takes a BpfContext containing general Bpf settings, like BTF information and map pinning configuration. Just pass it down to bpf_common::ProgramBuilder::new.
  • takes a BpfSender—the channel where we'll send the generated events. It's a trait so that you can use whatever data structure you want for your application: modules can be used inside Pulsar, but can also be used by themself. The probe binary shows how you can use our modules without running the full agent.
  • returns a bpf_common::Program. The application will keep sending EventT events over the sender channel until the program handle is dropped.

This implementation delegates all repetitive tasks to bpf_common::ProgramBuilder::new() which takes the eBPF configuration, a name used for logging purposes and the compiled eBPF program binary.

We attach the program to the security_inode_create kprobe and start it. Finally, we forward all events read from the events map to the sender channel.

The most commonly used map type is BPF_MAP_TYPE_PERF_EVENT_ARRAY and Program::read_events(sender) can be used to forward all generated events to the sender channel. In case it's needed, Program also has a poll method for consuming eBPF HashMaps.

The application is almost ready to use and you should refer to the probe binary for a simple way to link a and run it.

We can now implement probe.bpf.c to get this example to work.

#include "common.bpf.h"

char LICENSE[] SEC("license") = "Dual BSD/GPL";

int my_pid = 0;

#define NAME_MAX 264

struct event_t {
u64 timestamp;
pid_t pid;
u32 _event;
char filename[NAME_MAX];

struct bpf_map_def SEC("maps/event") eventmem = {
.key_size = sizeof(u32),
.value_size = sizeof(struct event_t),
.max_entries = 1,

// used to send events to userspace
struct bpf_map_def SEC("maps/events") events = {
.key_size = sizeof(int),
.value_size = sizeof(u32),
.max_entries = 0,

int security_inodei_create(struct pt_regs *ctx) {
pid_t tgid = bpf_get_current_pid_tgid() >> 32;

struct qstr q;
u32 key = 0;
struct event_t *event = bpf_map_lookup_elem(&eventmem, &key);
if (!event)
return 0;
struct dentry *dentry = PT_REGS_PARM2(ctx);
bpf_probe_read_kernel(&q, sizeof(q), &dentry->d_name);
bpf_probe_read_kernel_str(&event->filename, sizeof(event->filename),;
event->timestamp = bpf_ktime_get_ns();
event->pid = tgid;
event->_event = 0;

bpf_perf_event_output(ctx, &events, BPF_F_CURRENT_CPU, event, sizeof(struct event_t));
return 0;

The struct event_t layout must match the event defined in Rust, plus a timestamp, the process id and the enum variant. For more details see the BpfEvent usage inside Program.

Testing probes

Testing the eBPF program makes our edit-compile-test cycles much quicker to execute. It also enables us to spot regressions quickly and easily. The TestRunner struct makes it simple to run code to trigger a eBPF event and check it matches the expectations.

#[cfg(feature = "test-suite")]
pub mod test_suite {
use bpf_common::{
test_runner::{TestCase, TestRunner, TestSuite},

use super::*;

pub fn tests() -> TestSuite {
TestSuite {
name: "file-created",
tests: vec![file_name()],

fn file_name() -> TestCase {
TestCase::new("file_name", async {
let fname = "file_name_1";
let path = "/tmp/file_name_1";
.run(|| {
let _ = std::fs::remove_file(path);
std::fs::File::create(path).expect("creating file failed");
(filename, fname.into(), "filename")

Finally, since this is a new module, you have to add it to the test-suite main file:

// List of modules we want to test
let modules = [

You can now run the test suite with:

cargo xtask test

See the existing modules for more examples. All Pulsar modules must include an appropriate test suite. This makes it simple to spot incompatibilities when porting Pulsar to a new targets.

Pulsar Integration

What we've written so far is a standalone Rust module for intercepting file creation events. In order to integrate it to the agent, we have to write a PulsarModule factory function that is added to the main file.

pub mod pulsar {
use super::*;
use pulsar-core::pdk::{
CleanExit, ModuleContext, ModuleError, Payload, PulsarModule, ShutdownSignal, Version,

pub fn file_created() -> PulsarModule {
Version::new(0, 0, 1),

async fn file_created_task(
ctx: ModuleContext,
mut shutdown: ShutdownSignal,
) -> Result<CleanExit, ModuleError> {
let _program = program(ctx.get_bpf_context(), ctx.get_sender()).await?;

impl From<EventT> for Payload {
fn from(data: EventT) -> Self {
match data {
EventT::FileCreated { filename } => Payload::FileCreated {
filename: filename.to_string(),

file_created_task is the async function that runs our module until the Pulsar agent sends us the shutdown signal. By dropping _program we shut down the eBPF program and stop producing events.

All modules communicate using the agent's message bus, where events are sent and received. Since we're writing a producer module, we'll get a sender with the ModuleContext::get_sender() method. We can use that channel as a BpfSender for bpf_common::Program because we've implemented a conversion method for transforming the module-specific and C-compatibile EventT into a Payload, which is the enum with all the Pulsar events. We don't have to worry about process id and timestamp because headers will be automatically filled by bpf_common::Program.


We've built a eBPF probe which writes events into a perf event map. These events are then read by our module and shared on the agent's bus.

Key take-aways:

  • bpf-common contains a collection of tools built on top of aya, they reduce boilerplate and help writing tests.
  • A module can be used as part of Pulsar or by itself. A generic Rust application could reuse a particular probe without depending on the Pulsar agent.
  • Writing tests first is the best way to develop a new probe.