Monday, June 25, 2018

Chill, shills...

Sigh... I didn't really want to write a whole blog post about this, but since people keep paraphrasing me out of context (or just plain wrongly) I figured it might be beneficial for those few who care.

So, the SX OS brick code... I'm going to try and explain all this again one last time in a good old Q&A style (Qs have been exaggerated for comedic purposes).

Q: lul u bricked! that's what you get for tryin to crack the almighty SX OS!
A: Yes I know this isn't really a question. Apparently people think I'm butthurt about this or that I simply have no clue how this happened.
Sorry to disappoint you, but I wouldn't try to run a closed-source piece of software at a system's highest possible level of execution privilege if I wasn't sure of what could happen. Naturally, I reserved one unit that I didn't care much about for experimenting with this.
Sure, it sucks to go through the process of restoring it, but I was willing to do it and no I'm not sad/mad/annoyed/butthurt/whatever about what happened. I guess people inferred a tone from my original first tweet (was it the emoticons?), but the purpose of the PSA was merely informative.

Q: You SJWs try anything to discredit TX! First it was "itz goin to get cracked day 1" now it's "oh no! brick code! stay away!".
A: Another non-question. For starters, I'm not the author of the first claim, I never underestimated the preventing measures in place for their software.
As for the second claim, I couldn't care less about what you do with your system. I'm not here to tell you to stay away from their product because it has code that can brick your NAND, I was just doing an informative tweet. Something I've done in the past regarding the Switch itself.

Q: TX has a solid 15 year reputation! How can you find yourself superior to them?
A: Even though I never claimed to be above them, I've been around security for almost 18 years now. What exactly does that prove anyway?

Q: Why are you wasting time REing SX OS instead of working for the free open-source alternatives you defend so much?
A: I'm still doing active work on Atmosphère (writing critical parts of fusee from scratch), just because you're not seeing commits it doesn't mean work isn't getting done.
As for REing the OS, why not? It's a challenge. I'm not trying to break their product to make them lose money or whatever crappy excuses I've seen people throwing around. If I worked on cracking the Switch itself, why shouldn't I try to do the same with their product? It's out there for anyone to grab and has multiple layers of obfuscation, seems like an interesting puzzle to me.

Q: Yeah right, you ReSwitched folks are all the same!
A: To be accurate, I'm not part of ReSwitched. I work independently while collaborating with multiple parties such as ReSwitched and Switchbrew.
This doesn't mean I don't share their views, because I do agree with several people on multiple things, but I speak for myself whenever I deem fit.

Q: Oh, but you attacked TX in the past!
A: I did yes. I have no problems admitting that in my opinion what they do is despicable, but that's a personal and subjective view. I'm also intelligent enough to not mix this with objective work such as reversing their products.

Q: Pffft. Can you even prove they have brick code?
A: Run this script on the folder where you have the "boot.dat" file:
It will generate a few files, but we're only interested in the "data_80000000.bin" one. This is a payload that runs in RAM and is composed of various chunks of code that decrypt and re-encrypt themselves to prevent people from live debugging their code.
Afterwards, run this other script in the same folder:
You will get a file called "data_80000000_unpacked.bin". This is the payload with its chunks decrypted and placed in the proper memory addresses. Open this in IDA or any other disassembler of your preference (the binary is AARCH64, little endian and base offset is what's in the file name: 0x80000000) and locate sub_80306200.
What you're seeing there is performance monitor (using the Cortex-A57 CP15 registers c9, c12 and c13) that watches over the overall execution time of this payload. If the timing doesn't match what the payload expects, a different code path is taken (and different chunks of code will be decrypted and executed). You'll have to dig a bit, but eventually the MMIO register 0x700B0600 (comes from 0x8000407C after deobfuscation), which is the Tegra's SDMMC4 (eMMC) base address, will be accessed to perform the aforementioned issuing of the MMC_LOCK_UNLOCK command (CMD42).
The password used is generated in the same fashion as Gateway's brick code for the 3DS. In my case, since I was messing with the code, it picked up the password seed from random garbage in the stack so it would've been very difficult (if not impossible) to regenerate it.
In theory, it should be really difficult for this mechanism to trigger at random, but it is possible. The performance monitor features of the CPU are prone to mistakes just like anything else.

Q: What's your endgame with this then?
A: Nothing, I just like to crack DRMs.

So, that's it I guess.
I'm a strong advocate of the idea that if a product is good enough (regardless of their origins or purposes) it should be able to stand by itself. Seeing a good amount of people actively defending the SX OS and getting pissed by just about anything is making me believe that TX themselves don't trust this product.
I actually know Team Xecuter's history and I've even had some of their products in my hands a long time ago. What I'm learning by reversing the SX OS doesn't resonate at all with the TX that worked on solutions for the Xbox family. It's not the first time TX releases software to accompany their hacks, but I don't remember them including brick code in their products.

In sum, my stance on piracy is very clear: it's a despicable and toxic practice that goes directly against the morals and values of the homebrew community. It completely discredits our attempts to show companies that we are capable of building positive solutions by modifying their products.
That being said, I don't mix my personal views with my attempts to reverse engineer this product and I certainly wouldn't tweet about it if I wasn't sure of what I found.

Anyway, my guinea Switch is being restored at the moment and this didn't hinder in the slightest my progress in cracking the SX OS. Ironically, it had the reverse effect since I was able to observe where and how the next stages are loaded into which in turn allows to improve emulation solutions to further crack the code.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Anatomy of a Wii U: The End...?

Welcome to a new write-up! Last time I wrote one of these was months ago, but I had good reasons for that (*cough*Switch*cough*).

Since as early as March, I've been working non-stop on hacking and reverse engineering the Switch alongside extremely talented hackers/developers such as plutoo, derrek, yellows8 and SciresM.
Together we have achieved incredible milestones and I'm really glad all our hard work eventually paid off.

That said, let's move on to the reason for this post: the Wii U.
If you are one of those few weirdos enthusiasts that still care about this console, you might recall last year's CCC where derrek, naehrwert and nedwill showcased their progress in hacking the last bits of the 3DS and Wii U.
Back then, they demonstrated their own exploitation path for taking down both the PPC and ARM processors on the Wii U, which was something that had already been publicly achieved using different bugs/exploits. This was also achieved much earlier by the hacking group fail0verflow which showcased their findings during the 30th edition of the CCC (back in 2013).

It was a very cool talk all around, but the main highlight for Wii U hacking fans was something derrek brought up: boot1.
This particular piece of the Wii U's boot chain was never obtained up until derrek and his team (plutoo, yellows8, smealum and naehrwert) successfully launched an hardware based attack that resulted in dumping the boot1 key.
The setup for this attack remained private, but the overall exploitation process was explained during the talk and is also documented here:

That was the last nail in the Wii U's coffin... or was it? Naturally, after obtaining the boot1 binary, derrek and his team began looking for vulnerabilities in it. While most of the usually critical stuff (signature handling, file parsing, etc.) was found to be safely implemented, derrek, plutoo, yellows8, naehrwert and shuffle2 did find one potential bug. However, due to lack of motivation and time, it remained just a theory.

I even wrote a blog post about all this where I mistakenly assumed some things that weren't true. Then I issued another blog post apologizing for said assumptions... Those were confusing times. :P
However, that's what got me to chat with derrek and get to know him better.

After some discussions about boot1, derrek agreed on sharing with me the potential bug that was mentioned during CCC. His team was already getting ready for the Switch release and they had little to no time left to work on trying to exploit this bug, so I offered my help.

A few days later I found a way to exploit this bug and achieved boot1 code execution! Neat, huh?
So, without further ado, I present you a writeup on the mythical boot1hax. :D

NOTE: Obtaining the boot1 binary in the first place is out of scope for the purposes of this writeup.

The Bug

The bug itself is really simple.
After some hours reverse engineering the boot1 binary and using the information derrek had shared with me, finding the bug was straightforward.
However, to understand it, we have to look into a specific IOSU process: IOS-MCP.

Wait, IOS-MCP? That loads AFTER boot1, what could possibly relate them?
Turns out, IOS-MCP manages something that plenty of people have already looked into (and maybe even guessed it's purpose), but couldn't exactly undestand what it does.

There is a range of physical memory mapped in IOSU that appears to serve no clear purpose: 0x10000000 to 0x100FFFFF (see

The typical layout of this region is as follows:
Breaking it down, we have a pattern filling the first 0x400 bytes followed by NULL bytes up until this PRSH/PRST structure:
This structure is created by IOS-MCP to keep track of the addresses and sizes of several memory regions. It is encapsulated with a header (PRSH) and a footer (PRST) and contains an array of structures describing memory regions.
In the latest firmware version, only 7 regions are registered in this structure. Here's an example parsed from my console:
While most of these regions contain nothing particularly interesting, there is one exception: boot_info.
This region stores data passed along from boot0 and boot1 to IOS-MCP! An example from my console:
As an example, the last 8 fields contain the time spent on each boot0/boot1 stage and this data is printed on crash logs.

What derrek and his team found out by looking at the boot1 binary is that this structure is also passed back to boot1!
How? Well, right before a reset is asserted, IOS-MCP encrypts the entire 0x10000400 to  0x10008000 range with the Starbuck ancast key. When the console reboots, RAM contents are not cleared and boot1 will decrypt this range and parse the PRSH/PRST struct looking for the boot_info region.

Even though this might look like a weird way to pass data back and forth across the boot chain, this process is actually properly implemented and boot1's code for parsing the PRSH/PRST structure is sound. But there is one exception...

On coldboot, where the RAM contents are cleared, it's boot1 that creates boot_info for the fist time at the hardcoded address 0x10008000 and inserts this information into the PRSH/PRST structure. However, on a warmboot, boot1 decrypts and parses the already existing PRSH/PRST structure in RAM which might have been changed by IOS-MCP. This means that boot1 actually locates the boot_info section inside the PRSH/PRST structure and uses the pointer stored there to read/write the actual data.

This shouldn't be a problem, but they forgot to validate the pointer to boot_info data, which means that if IOS-MCP changes it, boot1 will attempt to read/write the boot_info data from any address we want (instead of 0x10008000)!

What derrek and his team were able to verify is that changing the pointer for boot_info to an address within boot1's stack region would crash boot1. A plausible exploitation path here would be to take advantage of whatever boot1 writes into boot_info to overwrite some LR address stored in boot1's stack and gain code execution.
Unfortunately, this is very impractical. Turns out, the way boot_info is parsed and modified by boot1 is very, very restricted.

The Exploit

So, we have this weird small structure that boot1 uses to communicate with IOSU (and vice versa) and we can control the pointer for said structure to force boot1 to read it from anywhere we want. The only way to tell if this can be exploited or not is to know exactly why this boot_info structure exists and how boot1 handles it, so I'm going to cheat and jump straight to a breakdown of how it's done:
As you can see, there's not much going on. The PRSH/PRST structure is decrypted from RAM and boot1 tries to locate boot_info inside it. If it fails, a new boot_info entry is created and inserted into the PRSH/PRST structure, but the pointer for it's data will be hardcoded to 0x10008000, thus causing any subsequent reads/writes to occur in a perfectly safe address range. However, if it does find a preexisting boot_info entry, boot1 will fetch it's data from the pointer stored inside the PRSH/PRST structure and this is what we are interested in causing.

The attack plan is simple:
  •  Use any exploit we want and escalate to IOS-MCP (or even better,  to the IOSU's kernel);
  • Craft/modify the PRSH/PRST structure in memory using a modified boot_info pointer;
  • Encrypt the PRSH/PRST structure with the Starbuck ancast key and boot_info IV (stored at 0x050677C0 in IOS-MCP);
  • Force a reboot.

As expected, we can force boot1 to take a modified boot_info pointer and start reading the data from anywhere we want. Now comes the real challenge: where should we point to?

We must focus on the boot_info fields that are always modified by boot1, but we also need to take into account how boot1 tells if boot_info already exists or not. This happens in sub_D40AF10 and it goes like this:
  • Each PRSH/PRST section is parsed and it's name is compared against the string "boot_info";
  • If the boot_info section is found, it's size is checked and it must be 0x58;
  • Finally, the boot_info_04 field must have bit 0x80 (big endian) set.

This last check is very important since boot1 only accepts a preexisting boot_info structure if the word at offset 0x04 has that specific bit set.

It's now clear that we can achieve a semi-arbitrary write in boot1 by abusing this particular bug. All we need is to change the boot_info pointer inside our crafted PRSH/PRST into something that resembles a valid boot_info structure from boot1's point of view. This would then result in boot1 updating those boot_info fields listed before and, therefore, write data to an arbitrary address.

Let's leave the "boot_info_04 field must have bit 0x80 set" aside for a while and focus on which fields might be useful to write into boot1's address space:
  • boot_info_08: this is only modified by boot1 when a specific RTC event has occurred.
  • boot_info_38 to boot_info_54: these are used to store the time spent on the various boot0/boot1 stages.
  • boot_info_0C: this is increased by 1 each time a warmboot occurs (gets set back to 0 on a coldboot).

To be more precise, there are indeed a few more fields that are modified by boot1, but these are always set to either 0 or -1 in a way that doesn't make it really practical to choose them.

I began by focusing on the time related fields, but these just turned out to be too volatile for a reliable memory corruption. Also, boot_info_0C is not really useful either since it keeps changing on each warmboot.
What about boot_info_08? For this field to be read/written the RTC must have the SLEEP_EN flag set. Luckily, we can just force this flag to be set by calling the system call ios_shutdown(1) (see which also happens to trigger a system reset!

Still, boot_info_08 will be overwritten with rtc_events |= (boot_info_08 & 0x101E). From blind tests, I could tell the final value that got written was always 0x0020XXXX, which means I could write a NULL byte followed by 0x20 and whatever was in the lower bits of boot_info_08. This is far from optimal... :\

Took me about 2 afternoons of reading boot1's binary until I finally found the perfect place to corrupt:

This particular snippet is the epilogue of sub_D40AC30, which runs immediately after boot_info_08 is modified. Doesn't look particularly interesting, but let's check the hex:
Jackpot! Since we are running way before MMU is set up and all that, we can do unaligned memory reads/writes just fine, so, if I change the boot_info pointer to 0x0D40AC6D, boot1 will see the following structure:
  • boot_info_00: 0x00BC0E46 
  • boot_info_04: 0x93469D47
  • boot_info_08: 0x080000XX 

Since boot_info_04 has bit 0x80 (big endian) set, boot1 will overwrite boot_info_08 with 0x0020XXXX. Why is this important? Because we now have mutated the instruction BX R1 into BX R0 and R0 is 0.
This means boot1's execution will fall into NULL. Normally this isn't very exciting, but in the Wii U's case the physical address range 0x00000000 to 0x01FFFFFF maps to MEM1 (which is frequently used for graphics).

This memory range is not cleared on a warmboot either so, as long as boot0 and boot1 leave it alone, we can actually plant our payload there and have arbitrary code execution going!

It's known that boot0 doesn't touch any relevant RAM regions, but what about boot1? Well, boot1 actually accesses the three RAM regions (MEM0, MEM1 and MEM2):
  • MEM0 is fully cleared by boot1 as soon as it starts;
  • MEM2 is left untouched, with the exception of the first 0x400 bytes at address 0x10000000 which are filled with a binary pattern for testing RAM self-refresh;
  • MEM1 is also left untouched, with the exception of a single word (0x20008000) being written at address 0x0000000C for unknown reasons.

As long as our payload starts right away with a jump over address 0x0000000C, we are good!

So, I cook up a small payload to copy boot1 from SRAM into some unused MEM2 region, patch the corruption I just caused, jump back to where execution fell to NULL and let boot1 finish. Now I just need to escalate into IOS-MCP or IOSU's kernel and fish out the binary!

As a bonus, this particular method allows me to hijack execution before the 2 mysterious OTP blocks get locked (see so I can easily piggyback on boot1's OTP reading functions and get them too!
Sadly, these blocks are never used and were likely locked out as a preemptive measure so a future update could begin to use them instead of some other key material (especially since the 2 blocks are not per-console). 

And there you have it, boot1 code execution from a RAM based attack!
Along with this writeup, I'll be publicly documenting boot1 over at and I'm releasing a patch for my long forgotten project hexFW that gives you the option to dump your console's boot1 and unlocked OTP:

NOTE: This does not include the boot1 AES key, since that one is long gone by the time we are running code in boot1!

What about CFW? Well this attack on it's own doesn't really help you there.
In order to get a custom firmware running straight from boot1 another kind of attack is preferred, specially something that actually survives a coldboot. :\
Remember that this only works due to RAM not being cleared on a warmboot so it's impossible to achieve persistence this way.

However... There's one plausible vector that could be used to create a much safer alternative to current methods.
Leveraging this bug from the vWii environment, for example, could grant a nice boot(ish) time CFW by combining some form of contenthax in a way that entering vWii mode would launch the boot1hax payload, reset the console and send you right into a CFW. The total time spent on this would be minimal and it would create a dual-boot environment where you could hold down the "B" button on boot to jump into CFW or do nothing to land on the vanilla OS. That is, of course, if you wouldn't mind sacrificing your vWii channel for a while (it would then be possible to restore it from within the CFW environment, so that's not really an issue).

I've been looking into this for quite some time with derrek, but the Switch has been taking most of our time so I kept postponing this project endlessly. Regardless, I still plan on picking this up one last time during the start of this new year, but derrek and I agreed on sharing this anyway so others can also get the chance to research boot1 and hopefully find some new bugs in the process.

All this has been kept under wraps for quite a while for a very good reason: it's insanely easy to patch. Now that the Wii U reached it's EoL and the Switch is the new kid on the block, it seems appropriate to end (for good) the Wii U cycle while homebrew on the Switch is just beginning to flourish.

Retail plaintext boot1 (v8377) SHA-256: 5013BFABC578CBA08843D9A0F650171942A696CBC54DF12E754D9E0978FCD3B1

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it. :)
Stay safe and have fun!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Switch - State of Affairs

Let's kick off the new year with a new blog post!

Since this last year's CCC talk where derrek, naehrwert and plutoo showcased their progress on hacking the Switch, tons of misinformation began floating around about which firmware is necessary for homebrew.
I believe it's now time to put up a nice and comprehensive FAQ on all things Switch hacking related.
So, buckle up, and if you have the questions, here are the answers.

Q: Who the hell are you and why should I take your answers seriously?
A: I've been working on hacking the Switch since day 1. I've found bugs and developed exploits on my own at first and eventually ended up integrating a small loose crew of hackers that share the same interests. While we work together on a certain level, we also work either individually or among other groups (Switchbrew, ReSwitched, etc.).

Q: Were you involved in 34c3?
A: Not directly. Just like many others who were credited during the talk, I've worked with derrek, naehrwert and plutoo on hacking the Switch, but what was presented during the talk is a reflection of these hackers separate work.

Q: I have been told for quite a while that firmware 3.0.0 is where I should be at. They even said so during the talk! What does that mean?
A: Firmware 3.0.0 introduced a specific bug that allowed for userland code execution, but the same bug was patched immediately after on the next firmware update. This created the perfect starting point for publicly disclosing this vulnerability and laying down the foundations of homebrew.
The idea was simple: get as many people as possible on firmware 3.0.0 so everybody can start working on writing homebrew right away. What wasn't particularly clear is that this is ultimately an advice for homebrew developers and not the average end user.

Q: And what about [insert firmware version here]?
A: Here's something that you probably don't know yet: ALL current firmware versions are exploitable up to the point of running your own code.
Yes, you read that right. This includes firmware 1.0.0 all the way up to 4.1.0.

Q: So, can I just update my Switch?
A: Yes and no. This is a question many have been asking and conflicting answers are causing a great deal of confusion among people.
The basic principle is the following: if you have no reason to upgrade from your current firmware version (regardless of what it is), then simply don't upgrade.

However, the real answer is quite more nuanced. Increasing firmware versions obviously include additional patches for a myriad of vulnerabilities, therefore, the lowest firmware version (1.0.0) is the most vulnerable. Obviously, for a number of reasons, not everybody will be able to get their hands on a launch day system, so there's always interest in exploiting new updates.

In an effort to clear the air and promote a less toxic environment, here comes the current state of affairs regarding Switch hacks:
- Firmware 1.0.0:
-> Contains critical system flaws that allow code execution up to the TrustZone level;
-> Most of what was showcased during 34c3 originally targeted this firmware version;
-> Allows for a full blown emuNAND/CFW setup.

- Firmware 2.0.0-2.3.0:
-> Contains system flaws that allow code execution up to the kernel level;
-> Can be exploited to run homebrew using private methods (e.g.: nvhax).

- Firmware 3.0.0:
-> Contains system flaws that allow code execution on the userland level;
-> Can be exploited to run homebrew using private methods (e.g.: nvhax);
-> Can be exploited to run homebrew using public methods (e.g.: rohan).

- Firmware 3.0.1-4.1.0:
-> Contains system flaws that allow code execution on the userland level;
-> Can be exploited to run homebrew using private methods (e.g.: nvhax).

As you can see, the higher the firmware version, the less options you have. However, code execution for homebrew is still assured across all firmware versions.

Q: Wait, did I read that right? Firmware 2.0.0 to 2.3.0 can be exploited up to the kernel?
A: Yes, but no additional information will be disclosed at this point.

Q: What is that nvhax thing?
A: This is currently a private method that I originally discovered and exploited. Joined by SciresM and plutoo, we have successfully used it to exploit pretty much all firmware versions to the point where running homebrew is possible.

Q: Will nvhax be released? When?
A: Yes, but there are no plans to release it any time soon. Having code execution on the latest firmware version available is a privilege that ought to be maintained for as long as possible.
That said, when it stops being useful it will be released as an alternative for people on firmware versions above 3.0.0 to enjoy homebrew.

Q: Ok, so, I'm a developer with a strong passion for homebrew and would love to start right away. What do you suggest?
A: Update your Switch to firmware version 3.0.0, read about rohan and get to work!

Q: Now, I'm just a regular user that loves homebrew, but has no intent or knowledge to develop my own. I also want to play the latest games on my Switch and don't really mind waiting. What do you suggest?
A: Update to the latest firmware version and wait.

Q: What if I'm an avid hacker/developer who wants to explore the system as much as possible?
A: Find a 1.0.0 unit and stay there.

Q: And what if I just want to pirate games?
A: You're barking at the wrong tree.

Hopefully this FAQ will put to rest some of the doubts people have been expressing lately and help them understand the necessary steps to enjoy homebrew on their consoles.
More information will be shared when the time is right, but rest assured we are all working hard on really cool stuff and, hopefully, helping to build a strong homebrew community for the Switch.

Also, stay tuned for a very special blog post in the following days. ;)

As always, have fun!