Released in November 2001, the original Xbox was Microsoft’s first venture into the game console industry. With its hardware closely resembling a cheap but versatile PC of the early 2000s, the device came under the immediate scrutiny of technical hobbyists looking to run ‘homebrew’ code and alternative operating systems on it.
Over the course of its lifetime, the Xbox was unilaterally hacked through a broad range of both hardware and software attacks. But at 20 years old, this Intel-based Pentium III system holds up as an amazing platform to learn or explore a plethora of security and computer systems engineering topics that are still relevant to this day.
As a fun departure from our usual content, this post exploits some nostalgia to tackle a challenge put forth by some of the earliest musings of the original Xbox researchers: “hacking” the original Xbox via Intel’s x86 CPU JTAG.
With the broad adoption of Kernel Address Space Layout Randomization (KASLR) by modern systems, obtaining an information leak is a necessary component of most privilege escalation exploits. This post will cover an implementation detail of XNU (the kernel used by Apple’s macOS) which can eliminate the need for a dedicated information leak vulnerability in many kernel exploits.
The key lies in the
__HIBsegment of the kernel Mach-O, containing a subset of functions and data structures for system hibernation and low-level CPU management, which is always mapped at a known address.
We will first provide a general overview of the
__HIBsegment and the various ways that it can be abused. Using our Pwn2Own 2021 kernel exploit as a real-world example, we show how this exploit could be simplified to use the general techniques described here removing the need for its previously tedious leak construction.
To escape the Safari sandbox for our Pwn2Own 2021 submission, we exploited a vulnerability in the Intel graphics acceleration kernel extensions (drivers) on macOS. This post will detail the bug and how we went about exploiting it to achieve reliable kernel code execution.
We delayed publishing this writeup as we discovered and reported a multitude of similar issues to Apple over the past year, the last of which was patched recently. With other researchers catching on, Intel graphics-related CVEs have become increasingly common among Apple’s security update listings. Quite recently, there was even an exploit discovered in-the-wild targeting the same Intel graphics kernel extensions discussed in this post.
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Attacking Intel's Transactional Synchronization Extensions
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Four Heap Sprays, Two Dangling Pointers, One Bitflip
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Fuzzing the macOS WindowServer for Exploitable Vulnerabilities
Illustrating the Progression of Advanced Exploit Primitives In Practice
Timeless Debugging of Complex Software
Vulnerability Discovery Against Apple Safari
Evaluating Complex Software Targets for Exploitable Vulnerabilities
A Methodical Approach to Browser Exploitation
The Exploit Development Lifecycle, From A to Z(ero Day)
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Practical Decompilation of Ethereum Smart Contracts
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A Sampling of Anti-Decompilation Techniques
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Untangling Exotic Architectures with Binary Ninja
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Compiling Executables for the Classic POSIX Subsystem on Windows