Validation can be enabled with the validation feature. Validation leverages the bytecheck crate to perform archive validation, and allows the consumption of untrusted and malicious data.

To validate an archive, you first have to derive CheckBytes for your archived type:

use bytecheck::CheckBytes;
use rkyv::{Archive, Deserialize, Serialize};

#[derive(Archive, Deserialize, Serialize)]
pub struct Example {
    a: i32,
    b: String,
    c: Vec<bool>,

The #[archive_attr(...)] attribute applies the provided attributes to the archived type. Finally, you can use check_archived_root to check an archive and get a reference to the archived value if it was successful:

use rkyv::check_archived_root;

let archived_example = check_archived_root::<Example>(buffer).unwrap();

More examples of how to enable and perform validation can be found in the rkyv_test crate's validation module.

The validation context

When checking an archive, a validation context is created automatically using some good defaults that will work for most archived types. If your type requires special validation logic, you may need to augment the capabilities of the validation context in order to check your type and use check_archived_root_with_context.

The DefaultValidator supports all builtin rkyv types, but changes depending on whether you have the alloc feature enabled or not.

Bounds checking and subtree ranges

All pointers are checked to make sure that they:

  • point inside the archive
  • are properly aligned
  • and have enough space afterward to hold the desired object

However, this alone is not enough to secure against recursion attacks and memory sharing violations, so rkyv uses a system to verify that the archive follows its strict ownership model.

Archive validation usees a memory model where all subobjects are located in contiguous memory. This is called a subtree range. When validating an object, the archive context keeps track of where subobjects are allowed to be located, and can reduce the subtree range from the beginning with push_prefix_subtree_range or the end with push_suffix_subtree_range. After pushing a subtree range, any subobjects in that range can be checked by calling their CheckBytes implementations. Once the subobjects are checked, pop_prefix_subtree_range and pop_suffix_subtree_range can be used to restore the original range with the checked section removed.

Validation and Shared Pointers

While validating shared pointers is supported, some additional restrictions are in place to prevent malicious data from validating:

Shared pointers that point to the same object will fail to validate if they are different types. This can cause issues if you have a shared pointer to the same array, but the pointers are an array pointer and a slice pointer. Similarly, it can cause issues if you have shared pointers to the same value as a concrete type (e.g. i32) and a trait object (e.g. dyn Any).

rkyv still supports these use cases, but it's not possible or feasible to ensure data integrity with these use cases. Alternative validation solutions like archive signatures and data hashes may be a better approach in these cases.