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Name: Matthew Garrett
Member since: 2002-01-08 11:35:36
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Home entertainment implementations are pretty appaling

I picked up a Panasonic BDT-230 a couple of months ago. Then I discovered that even though it appeared fairly straightforward to make it DVD region free (I have a large pile of PAL region 2 DVDs), the US models refuse to play back PAL content. We live in an era of software-defined functionality. While Panasonic could have designed a separate hardware SKU with a hard block on PAL output, that would seem like unnecessary expense. So, playing with the firmware seemed like a reasonable start.

Panasonic provide a nice download site for firmware updates, so I grabbed the most recent and set to work. Binwalk found a squashfs filesystem, which was a good sign. Less good was the block at the end of the firmware with "RSA" written around it in large letters. The simple approach of hacking the firmware, building a new image and flashing it to the device didn't appear likely to work.

Which left dealing with the installed software. The BDT-230 is based on a Mediatek chipset, and like most (all?) Mediatek systems runs a large binary called "bdpprog" that spawns about eleventy billion threads and does pretty much everything. Runnings strings over that showed, well, rather a lot, but most promisingly included a reference to "/mnt/sda1/vudu/vudu.sh". Other references to /mnt/sda1 made it pretty clear that it was the mount point for USB mass storage. There were a couple of other constraints that had to be satisfied, but soon attempting to run Vudu was actually setting a blank root password and launching telnetd.

/acfg/config_file_global.txt was the next stop. This is a set of tokens and values with useful looking names like "IDX_GB_PTT_COUNTRYCODE". I tried changing the values, but unfortunately made a poor guess - on next reboot, the player had reset itself to DVD region 5, Blu Ray region C and was talking to me in Russian. More inconveniently, the Vudu icon had vanished and I couldn't launch a shell any more.

But where there's one obvious mechanism for running arbitrary code, there's probably another. /usr/local/bin/browser.sh contained the wonderful line:

export LD_PRELOAD=/mnt/sda1/bbb/libSegFault.so
, so then it was just a matter of building a library that hooked open() and launched inetd and dropping that into the right place, and then opening the browser.

This time I set the country code correctly, rebooted and now I can actually watch Monkey Dust again. Hurrah! But, at the same time, concerning. This software has been written without any concern for security, and it listens on the network by default. If it took me this little time to find two entirely independent ways to run arbitrary code on the device, it doesn't seem like a stretch to believe that there are probably other vulnerabilities that can be exploited with less need for physical access.

The depressing part of this is that there's no reason to believe that Panasonic are especially bad here - especially since a large number of vendors are shipping much the same Mediatek code, and so probably have similar (if not identical) issues. The future is made up of network-connected appliances that are using your electricity to mine somebody else's Dogecoin. Our nightmarish dystopia may be stranger than expected.

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Syndicated 2014-04-21 00:37:43 from Matthew Garrett

Real-world Secure Boot attacks

MITRE gave a presentation on UEFI Secure Boot at SyScan earlier this month. You should read the the presentation and paper, because it's really very good.

It describes a couple of attacks. The first is that some platforms store their Secure Boot policy in a run time UEFI variable. UEFI variables are split into two broad categories - boot time and run time. Boot time variables can only be accessed while in boot services - the moment the bootloader or kernel calls ExitBootServices(), they're inaccessible. Some vendors chose to leave the variable containing firmware settings available during run time, presumably because it makes it easier to implement tools for modifying firmware settings at the OS level. Unfortunately, some vendors left bits of Secure Boot policy in this space. The naive approach would be to simply disable Secure Boot entirely, but that means that the OS would be able to detect that the system wasn't in a secure state[1]. A more subtle approach is to modify the policy, such that the firmware chooses not to verify the signatures on files stored on fixed media. Drop in a new bootloader and victory is ensured.

But that's not a beautiful approach. It depends on the firmware vendor having made that mistake. What if you could just rewrite arbitrary variables, even if they're only supposed to be accessible in boot services? Variables are all stored in flash, connected to the chipset's SPI controller. Allowing arbitrary access to that from the OS would make it straightforward to modify the variables, even if they're boot time-only. So, thankfully, the SPI controller has some control mechanisms. The first is that any attempt to enable the write-access bit will cause a System Management Interrupt, at which point the CPU should trap into System Management Mode and (if the write attempt isn't authorised) flip it back. The second is to disable access from the OS entirely - all writes have to take place in System Management Mode.

The MITRE results show that around 0.03% of modern machines enable the second option. That's unfortunate, but the first option should still be sufficient[2]. Except the first option requires on the SMI actually firing. And, conveniently, Intel's chipsets have a bit that allows you to disable all SMI sources[3], and then have another bit to disable further writes to the first bit. Except 40% of the machines MITRE tested didn't bother setting that lock bit. So you can just disable SMI generation, remove the write-protect bit on the SPI controller and then write to arbitrary variables, including the SecureBoot enable one.

This is, uh, obviously a problem. The good news is that this has been communicated to firmware and system vendors and it should be fixed in the future. The bad news is that a significant proportion of existing systems can probably have their Secure Boot implementation circumvented. This is pretty unsurprisingly - I suggested that the first few generations would be broken back in 2012. Security tends to be an iterative process, and changing a branch of the industry that's historically not had to care into one that forms the root of platform trust is a difficult process. As the MITRE paper says, UEFI Secure Boot will be a genuine improvement in security. It's just going to take us a little while to get to the point where the more obvious flaws have been worked out.

[1] Unless the malware was intelligent enough to hook GetVariable, detect a request for SecureBoot and then give a fake answer, but who would do that?
[2] Impressively, basically everyone enables that.
[3] Great for dealing with bugs caused by YOUR ENTIRE COMPUTER BEING INTERRUPTED BY ARBITRARY VENDOR CODE, except unfortunately it also probably disables chunks of thermal management and stops various other things from working as well.

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Syndicated 2014-04-14 03:22:28 from Matthew Garrett

Mozilla and leadership

A post I wrote back in 2012 got linked from a couple of the discussions relating to Brendan Eich being appointed Mozilla CEO. The tldr version is "If members of your community doesn't trust their leader socially, the leader's technical competence is irrelevant". That seems to have played out here.

In terms of background[1]: in 2008, Brendan donated money to the campaign for Proposition 8, a Californian constitutional amendment that expressly defined marriage as being between one man and one woman[2]. Both before and after that he had donated money to a variety of politicians who shared many political positions, including the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman[3].

Mozilla is an interesting organisation. It consists of the for-profit Mozilla Corporation, which is wholly owned by the non-profit Mozilla Foundation. The Corporation's bylaws require it to work to further the Foundation's goals, and any profit is reinvested in Mozilla. Mozilla developers are employed by the Corporation rather than the Foundation, and as such the CEO is responsible for ensuring that those developers are able to achieve those goals.

The Mozilla Manifesto discusses individual liberty in the context of use of the internet, not in a wider social context. Brendan's appointment was very much in line with the explicit aims of both the Foundation and the Corporation - whatever his views on marriage equality, nobody has seriously argued about his commitment to improving internet freedom. So, from that perspective, he should have been a fine choice.

But that ignores the effect on the wider community. People don't attach themselves to communities merely because of explicitly stated goals - they do so because they feel that the community is aligned with their overall aims. The Mozilla community is one of the most diverse in free software, at least in part because Mozilla's stated goals and behaviour are fairly inspirational. People who identify themselves with other movements backing individual liberties are likely to identify with Mozilla. So, unsurprisingly, there's a large number of socially progressive individuals (LGBT or otherwise) in the Mozilla community, both inside and outside the Corporation.

A CEO who's donated money to strip rights[4] from a set of humans will not be trusted by many who believe that all humans should have those rights. It's not just limited to individuals directly affected by his actions - if someone's shown that they're willing to strip rights from another minority for political or religious reasons, what's to stop them attempting to do the same to you? Even if you personally feel safe, do you trust someone who's willing to do that to your friends? In a community that's made up of many who are either LGBT or identify themselves as allies, that loss of trust is inevitably going to cause community discomfort.

The first role of a leader should be to manage that. Instead, in the first few days of Brendan's leadership, we heard nothing of substance - at best, an apology for pain being caused rather than an apology for the act that caused the pain. And then there was an interview which demonstrated remarkable tone deafness. He made no attempt to alleviate the concerns of the community. There were repeated non-sequiturs about Indonesia. It sounded like he had no idea at all why the community that he was now leading was unhappy.

And, today, he resigned. It's easy to get into hypotheticals - could he have compromised his principles for the sake of Mozilla? Would an initial discussion of the distinction between the goals of members of the Mozilla community and the goals of Mozilla itself have made this more palatable? If the board had known this would happen, would they have made the same choice - and if they didn't know, why not?

But that's not the real point. The point is that the community didn't trust Brendan, and Brendan chose to leave rather than do further harm to the community. Trustworthy leadership is important. Communities should reflect on whether their leadership reflects not only their beliefs, but the beliefs of those that they would like to join the community. Fail to do so and you'll drive them away instead.

[1] For people who've been living under a rock
[2] Proposition 8 itself was a response to an ongoing court case that, at the point of Proposition 8 being proposed, appeared likely to support the overturning of Proposition 22, an earlier Californian ballot measure that legally (rather than constitutionally) defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. Proposition 22 was overturned, and for a few months before Proposition 8 passed, gay marriage was legal in California.
[3] http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/apr/02/controversial-mozilla-ceo-made-donations-right-wing-candidates-brendan-eich
[4] Brendan made a donation on October 25th, 2008. This postdates the overturning of Proposition 22, and as such gay marriage was legal in California at the time of this donation. Donating to Proposition 8 at that point was not about supporting the status quo, it was about changing the constitution to forbid something that courts had found was protected by the state constitution.

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Syndicated 2014-04-03 22:42:26 from Matthew Garrett

What free software means to me

I was awarded the Free Software Foundation Award for the Advancement of Free Software this weekend[1]. I'd been given some forewarning, and I spent a bunch of that time thinking about how free software had influenced my life. It turns out that it's a lot.

I spent most of the 90s growing up in an environment that was rather more interested in cattle than in computers, and had very little internet access during that time. My entire knowledge of the wider free software community came from a couple of CDs that contained a copy of the jargon file, the source code to the entire GNU project and an early copy of the m68k Linux kernel.

But that was enough. Before I'd even got to university, I knew what free software was. I'd had the opportunity to teach myself how an operating system actually worked. I'd seen the benefits of being able to modify software and share those modifications with others. I met other people with the same interests. I ended up with a job writing free software and collaborating with others on integrating it with upstream code. And, from there, I became more and more involved with a wider range of free software communities, finding an increasing number of opportunities to help make changes that benefited both me and others.

Without free software I'd have started years later. I'd have lost the opportunity to collaborate with people spread over the entire world. My first job would have looked very different, as would my entire career since then. Without free software, almost everything I've achieved in my adult life would have been impossible.

To me, free software means I've lived a significantly better life than would otherwise have been the case. But more than that, it means doing what I can to make sure that other people have the same opportunities. I am here because of the work of others. The most rewarding part of my continued involvement is the knowledge that I am part of a countless number of people working to make sure that others can tell the same story in future.

[1] I'd link to the actual press release, but it contains possibly the worst photograph of me in the entire history of the universe

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Syndicated 2014-03-24 04:28:28 from Matthew Garrett

Dealing with Apple ACPI issues

I wrote about Thunderbolt on Apple hardware a while ago. Since then Andreas Noever has somehow managed to write a working Thunderbolt stack, which awesome! But there was still the problem I mentioned of the device not appearing unless you passed acpi_osi="Darwin" on the kernel command line, and a further problem that if you suspended and then resumed it vanished again.

The ACPI _OSI interface is a mechanism for the firmware to determine the OS that the system is running. It turns out that this works fine for operating systems that export fairly static interfaces (Windows, which adds a new _OSI per release) and poorly for operating systems that don't even guarantee any kind of interface stability in security releases (Linux, which claimed to be "Linux" regardless of version until we turned that off). OS X claims to be Darwin and nothing else. As I mentioned before, claiming to be Darwin in addition to Windows was enough to get the Thunderbolt hardware to stay alive after boot, but it wasn't enough to get it powered up again after suspend.

It turns out that there's two sections of ACPI code where this Mac checks _OSI. The first is something like:

if (_OSI("Darwin")) Store 0x2710 OSYS; else if(_OSI("Windows 2009") Store 0x7D9 OSYS; else…

ie, if the OS claims to be Darwin, all other strings are ignored. This is called from \_SB._INI(), which is the first ACPI method the kernel executes. The check for whether to power down the Thunderbolt controller occurs after this and then works correctly.

The second version is less helpful. It's more like:

if (_OSI("Darwin")) Store 0x2710 OSYS; if (_OSI("Windows 2009")) Store 0x7D9 OSYS; if…

ie, if the OS claims to be both Darwin and Windows 2009 (which Linux will if you pass acpi_osi="Darwin"), the OSYS variable gets set to the Windows 2009 value. This version gets called during PCI initialisation, and once it's run all the other Thunderbolt ACPI calls stop doing anything and the controller gets powered down after suspend/resume. That can be fixed easily enough by special casing Darwin. If the platform requests Darwin before anything else, we'll just stop claiming to be Windows.

Phew. Working Thunderbolt! (Well, almost - _OSC fails and so we disable PCIe hotplug, but that's easy to work around). But boo, no working battery. Apple do something very strange with their ACPI battery interface. If you're running anything that doesn't claim to be Darwin, Apple expose an ACPI Control Method battery. Control Method interfaces abstract the complexity away into either ACPI bytecode or system management traps - the OS simply calls an ACPI method, magic happens and it gets an answer back. If you claim to be Darwin, Apple remove that interface and instead expose the raw ACPI Smart Battery System interface. This provides an i2c bus over which the OS must then speak the Smart Battery System protocol, allowing it to directly communicate with the battery.

Linux has support for this, but it seems that this wasn't working so well and hadn't been for years. Loading the driver resulted in modprobe hanging until a timeout occurred, and most accesses to the battery would (a) take forever and (b) probably fail. It also had the nasty habit of breaking suspend and resume, which was unfortunate since getting Thunderbolt working over suspend and resume was the whole point of this exercise.

So. I modified the sbs driver to dump every command it sent over the i2c bus and every response it got. Pretty quickly I found that the failing operation was a write - specifically, a write used to select which battery should be connected to the bus. Interestingly, Apple implemented their Control Method interface by just using ACPI bytecode to speak the SBS protocol. Looking at the code in question showed that they never issued any writes, and the battery worked fine anyway. So why were we writing? SBS provides a command to tell you the current state of the battery subsystem, including which battery (out of a maximum of 4) is currently selected. Unsurprisingly, calling this showed that the battery we wanted to talk to was already selected. We then asked the SBS manager to select it anyway, and the manager promptly fell off the bus and stopped talking to us. In keeping with the maxim of "If hardware complains when we do something, and if we don't really need to do that, don't do that", this makes it work.

Working Thunderbolt and working battery. We're even getting close to getting switchable GPU support working reasonably, which is probably just going to involve rewriting the entirety of fbcon or something similarly amusing.

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Syndicated 2014-03-12 20:18:51 from Matthew Garrett

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