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SSD Secure Disclosure

Disclosing vulnerabilities responsibly since 2007

SSD Advisory – iOS powerd Uninitialized Mach Message Reply to Sandbox Escape and Privilege Escalation

(This advisory follows up on a vulnerability provided in Hack2Win Extreme competition, that won the iOS Privilege Escalation category in our offensive security event in 2018 in Hong Kong – come join us at TyphoonCon – June 2019 in Seoul for more offensive security lectures and training)

Vulnerabilities Summary
The following advisory describes security bugs discovered in iOS’s powerd, which leads to arbitrary address read with unlimited amount of memory and an arbitrary address deallocation with arbitrary size, which can lead to Sandbox Escape and Privilege Escalation.

Vendor Response
“Power Management
Available for: iPhone 5s and later, iPad Air and later, and iPod touch 6th generation
Impact: A malicious application may be able to execute arbitrary code with system privileges
Description: Multiple input validation issues existed in MIG generated code. These issues were addressed with improved validation.
CVE-2019-8549: Mohamed Ghannam (@_simo36) of SSD Secure Disclosure (ssd-disclosure.com)”


An independent Security Researcher, Mohamed Ghannam, has reported this vulnerability to SSD Secure Disclosure program.
Affected systems
iOS versions before 12.2.

Vulnerability Details
The powerd has its own MIG implementation, it’s based on _SC_CFMachPortCreateWithPort which is nothing more than a wrapper of CFMachPortCreateWithPort, it hosts a MIG callback called mig_server_callback(). This Callback is the main MIG resource handler which acts like mach_msg_server() in user-space or ipc_kmsg_server() in XNU kernel.

When powerd receives a Mach message, it allocates a reply message buffer via CFAllocatorAllocate with the default allocator and then later the reply message got partially initialized in pm_mig_demux().

We can notice that pm_mig_demux() doesn’t well initialize the reply buffer and only considers the message reply as Simple Mach Message and not a Complex Mach Message .

Unlike the MIG kernel, the MIG semantics in user-space (at least for powerd) is a bit different, the MIG routine takes the ownership of all passed objects (Mach ports, OOL memories and OOL ports), in case of failure, the MIG routine deallocates the appropriate object and returns KERN_SUCCESS (except for some few MIG routines which break this rule) which makes the MIG handler thinks that the routine returned successfully and took the ownership of all passed arguments. This is very important to understand because the bugs hugely rely on this logic.

Another important thing to mention, is that powerd uses retval parameters to store the real return value, this is kind of informing the client whether the Mach message request succeed or failed.

_io_pm_connection_copy_status() is a simple function which does nothing but returns KERN_SUCCESS, by looking to the MIG generated code, we can see that it has to reply with a complex message :

From the described above, we are obviously in front of an uninitialized OOL descriptor with full control of the address and size data members.
With some basic knowledge on how Mach IPC works, it’s possible to turn this into arbitrary code execution.
it’s worth noting that this bug does not cause any crash or a undefined behavior (unless the attacker filled memory with meaningful data), and will always returns success to the sender as we’ve seen earlier.
By controlling the uninitialized memory via spraying the heap, we could successfully fake the address and size members of mach_msg_ool_descriptor_t, thus we could reliably read an arbitrary memory address of powerd with unlimited amount of content.

Here we came across a problem, we cannot control an important member of mach_msg_ool_descriptor_t which is the .deallocate flag, if it is set to TRUE, the sender will directly deallocate the memory, otherwise, it won’t.

Unfortunately, _io_pm_connection_copy_status() sets .deallocate = FALSE, so we cannot make anything more than just reading powerd’s memory content.
We can make this bug more impcatful by finding a vulnerable function with .deallocate flag set to TRUE

After inspecting few MIG methods, we came across this MIG call:

If we can make sendData to be NULL, the method will jump into exit block and returns KERN_SUCCESS without initializing array_data and array_dataLen.
gHIDEventHistory is a global variable and we don’t have a direct control over it, after looking for a way of controlling it, it is safe to say that there is no direct way to make it invalid.

How can we make gHIDEventHistory invalid?

After inspecting powerd’s behavior, we came across this fact: if we will start a fresh powerd service process, gHIDEventHistory will still contain NULL and only after some time and via a MIG routine it will become a valid CFArray.

We came into this conclusion:
If we can force powerd to restart we can have gHIDEventHistory set to NULL which is sufficient to make sendData to NULL and trigger the bug shown above. In order to do this , we need another memory corruption to just make powerd crashe and Launchd has nothing to do but spawn a fresh powerd instance.

Here is a trivial bug NULL pointer dereference:

We can control details_ptr. If we will pass a malformed serialized data into IOCFUnserialize(), it will return NULL, and CFRelease() is called later within details_ptr without checking its value.
By testing out the primitive described above and combining the bugs together, we can turn this bug into Use-After-Deallocate. As an example, we can deallocate the CoreFoundation Library and reading its content with unlimited size:

And by deallocating such mandatory library, we would expect a random crash as follows:

Approach for exploitation
Once we have the two reliable primitives, we are in front of multiple ways to reach controlling the flow of the execution, in the exploit, we tried to do the following:

We have powersource objects which has a description CF object, this object can be updated by the attacker as he wishes if the current working powersource object has been created by himself.

We will send a very large CF Object with lots of CFData objects with some tagged values, and since we have a reliable primitive to read unlimited amount of memory from powerd, we can locate these objects and get the offset of one of the CFData objects. Later with the deallocation primitive, we will deallocate the located CFData object in page-aligned manner, and re-fill it with user controlled memory.

By sending multiple Mach OOL messages with .copy = MACH_PHYSICAL_COPY, otherwise, we can’t refill memory as we would like, since powerd MIG routines deallocate OOL descriptor in the end of each function, we can successfully control the ISA pointer of the CFData, and by releasing the target powersource->description, we get a PC control with X0 pointing to our controlled payload. And the exploitation becomes straightforward.

Source Code
You can find the full source code of the exploit here:
iOS powerd Uninitialized Mach Message Reply to Sandbox Escape and Privilege Escalation
The exploit that will be provided here, steals powerd’s task port using ROP/JOP chains as follow:

  • Register (in our exploit) a custom service in launchd with our app group,
  • Make powerd calls bootstrap_look_up (task_self,”app_group”,&port); using ROP
  • Build a fake mach OOL message and put it in a known powerd’s heap address.
  • Make powerd call mach_msg_send(msg);

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