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Blogs | RESEARCH | July 30, 2021

Breaking Protocol (Buffers): Reverse Engineering gRPC Binaries

gRPC is an open-source RPC framework from Google which leverages automatic code generation to allow easy integration to a number of languages. Architecturally, it follows the standard seen in many other RPC frameworks: services are defined which determine the available RPCs. It uses HTTP version 2 as its transport, and supports plain HTTP as well as HTTPS for secure communication. Services and messages, which act as the structures passed to and returned by defined RPCs, are defined as protocol buffers. Protocol buffers are a common serialization solution, also designed by…

Ethan Shackelford
Blogs | EDITORIAL | April 8, 2021

Trivial Vulnerabilities, Serious Risks

Introduction The digital transformation brought about by the social distancing and isolation caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic was both extremely rapid and unexpected. From shortening the distance to our loved ones to reengineering entire business models, we’re adopting and scaling new solutions that are as fast-evolving as they are complex. The full impact of the decisions and technological shifts we’ve made in such short a time will take us years to fully comprehend. Unfortunately, there’s a darker side to this rapid innovation and growth which is often performed to…

Tiago Assumpcao & Robert Connolly
Blogs | RESEARCH | April 6, 2021

Watch Your Step: Research Into the Concrete Effects of Fault Injection on Processor State via Single-Step Debugging

Fault injection, also known as glitching, is a technique where some form of interference or invalid state is intentionally introduced into a system in order to alter the behavior of that system. In the context of embedded hardware and electronics generally, there are a number of forms this interference might take. Common methods for fault injection in electronics include: Clock glitching (errant clock edges are forced onto the input clock line of an IC) Voltage fault injection (applying voltages higher or lower than the expected voltage to IC power lines)…

Ethan Shackelford
Blogs | RESEARCH | February 23, 2021

A Practical Approach to Attacking IoT Embedded Designs (II)

In this second and final blog post on this topic, we cover some OTA vulnerabilities we identified in wireless communication protocols, primarily Zigbee and BLE. As in the previous post, the findings described herein are intended to illustrate the type of vulnerabilities a malicious actor could leverage to attack a specified target to achieve DoS, information leakage, or arbitrary code execution. These vulnerabilities affect numerous devices within the IoT ecosystem. IOActive worked with the semiconductor vendors to coordinate the disclosure of these security flaws, but it is worth mentioning that…

Ruben Santamarta
Blogs | RESEARCH |

Probing and Signal Integrity Fundamentals for the Hardware Hacker, part 2: Transmission Lines, Impedance, and Stubs

This is the second post in my ongoing series on the troubles posed by high-speed signals in the hardware security lab. What is a High-speed Signal? Let’s start by defining “high-speed” a bit more formally: A signal traveling through a conductor is high-speed if transmission line effects are non-negligible. That’s nice, but what is a transmission line? In simple terms: A transmission line is a wire of sufficient length that there is nontrivial delay between signal changes from one end of the cable to the other. You may also see…

Andrew Zonenberg
Blogs | RESEARCH | February 11, 2021

A Practical Approach To Attacking IoT Embedded Designs (I)

The booming IoT ecosystem has meant massive growth in the embedded systems market due to the high demand for connected devices. Nowadays, designing embedded devices is perhaps easier than ever thanks to the solutions, kits, chips, and code that semiconductor manufacturers provide to help developers cope with the vast number of heterogeneous requirements IoT devices should comply with. This never-ending race to come up with new features within tight deadlines comes at a cost, which usually is paid in the security posture of the commercialized device.

Ruben Santamarta
Blogs | RESEARCH | January 28, 2021

Probing and Signal Integrity Fundamentals for the Hardware Hacker

The latest new widget just showed up on your desk. You excitedly crack open the case, look around a bit, and find a signal that looks interesting. You fire up your oscilloscope, touch a probe to the signal, and… the widget won’t boot! Or maybe it works fine, but you see garbage on the scope screen that looks nothing like a useful digital waveform. It’s a problem that’s becoming all too familiar to hardware hackers. As technology advances, signals become faster, which makes them more sensitive and less tolerant to…

Andrew Zonenberg
Blogs | RESEARCH | January 7, 2021

TAPing the Stack for Fun and Profit: Shelling Embedded Linux Devices via JTAG

While it may not come as a surprise to those who have worked with embedded devices, it is not uncommon to find the JTAG interface on embedded devices still enabled, even in production. Often cited as providing “ultimate control” over a device, JTAG debugging usually provides the user with full read/write privileges over device memory (and by extension over MMIO) as well as the ability to read and write control registers.  On a simpler embedded device (for example, a “smart” lock), leveraging open JTAG can be fairly straightforward: dump the…

Ethan Shackelford
Blogs | RESEARCH | December 15, 2020

Warcodes II – The Desko Case

Six months ago we published a blog post describing ‘Warcodes’ a novel attack vector against industrial barcode readers used in the baggage handling systems deployed at a significant number of international airports. This time we targeted boarding gate readers used as part of the passenger boarding and flow control. 

Ruben Santamarta

Arm IDA and Cross Check: Reversing the 787’s Core Network

IOActive has documented detailed attack paths and component vulnerabilities to describe the first plausible, detailed public attack paths to effectively reach the avionics network on a 787, commercial airplane from either non-critical domains, such as Passenger Information and Entertainment Services, or even external networks.

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