iPhone Jailbreak Hackers Await $1M Bounty

According to Motherboard, some unspecified (software) hacker just won a $1 million bounty for an iPhone exploit. But this is no ordinary there’s-a-glitch-in-your-Javascript bug bounty.

On September 21, “Premium” 0day startup Zerodium put out a call for a chain of exploits, starting with a browser, that enables the phone to be remotely jailbroken and arbitrary applications to be installed with root / administrator permissions. In short, a complete remote takeover of the phone. And they offered $1 million. A little over a month later, it looks like they’ve got their first claim. The hack has yet to be verified and the payout is actually made.

But we have little doubt that the hack, if it’s actually been done, is worth the money. The NSA alone has a $25 million annual budget for buying 0days and usually spends that money on much smaller bits and bobs. This hack, if it works, is huge. And the NSA isn’t the only agency that’s interested in spying on folks with iPhones.

Indeed, by bringing something like this out into the open, Zerodium is creating a bidding war among (presumably) adversarial parties. We’re not sure about the ethics of all this (OK, it’s downright shady) but it’s not currently illegal and by pitting various spy agencies (presumably) against each other, they’re almost sure to get their $1 million back with some cream on top.

We’ve seen a lot of bug bounty programs out there. Tossing “firmname bug bounty” into a search engine of your choice will probably come up with a hit for most firmnames. A notable exception in Silicon Valley? Apple. They let you do their debugging work for free. How long this will last is anyone’s guess, but if this Zerodium deal ends up being for real, it looks like they’re severely underpaying.

And if you’re working on your own iPhone remote exploits, don’t be discouraged. Zerodium still claims to have money for two more $1 million payouts. (And with that your humble author shrugs his shoulders and turns the soldering iron back on.)

Amazon Fire TV Update Bricks Hacked Devices

The Amazon Fire TV is Amazon’s answer to all of the other streaming media devices on the market today. Amazon is reportedly selling these devices at cost, making very little off of the hardware sales. Instead, they are relying on the fact that most users will rent or purchase digital content on these boxes, and they can make more money in the long run this way. In fact, the device does not allow users to download content directly from the Google Play store, or even play media via USB disk. This makes it more likely that you will purchase content though Amazon’s own channels.

We’re hackers. We like to make things do what they were never intended to do. We like to add functionality. We want to customize, upgrade, and break our devices. It’s fun for us. It’s no surprise that hackers have been jail breaking these devices to see what else they are capable of. A side effect of these hacks is that content can be downloaded directly from Google Play. USB playback can also be enabled. This makes the device more useful to the consumer, but obviously is not in line with Amazon’s business strategy.

Amazon’s response to these hacks was to release a firmware update that will brick the device if it discovers that it has been rooted. It also will not allow a hacker to downgrade the firmware to an older version, since this would of course remove the root detection features.

This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most of us. We’ve seen this type of thing for years with mobile phones. The iPhone has been locked to the Apple Store since the first generation, but the first iPhone was jailbroken just days after its initial release. Then there was the PlayStation 3 “downgrade” fiasco that resulted in hacks to restore the functionality. It seems that hackers and corporations are forever destined to disagree on who actually owns the hardware and what ownership really means. We’re locked in an epic game of cat and mouse, but usually the hackers seem to triumph in the end.

One Kindle launcher to rule them


Ask around and chances are you can find a friend or family member that still has their early generation Kindle but doesn’t use it anymore. There are quite a number of different things you can do with them, and now there’s a single Launcher that works for all models of hacked Kindles. KUAL is the Kindle Unified Application Launcher.

Loading the launcher on your device does require that it be Jailbroken/Rooted, but that’s really the entire point, right? Once on your device the system is easy to configure. Menus themselves can be customized by editing the XML and JSON pair for each list. The screenshot on the left illustrates some of the applications you might want to run. We could see a VNC viewer being useful, and everyone likes to have games — like Doom II or the entire Z-machine library — on hand when they unexpectedly get stuck somewhere. But MPlayer? Does anyone actually use their ePaper device to watch videos?

Getting root on a Sony TV

The Sony Bravia series of HDTVs are a great piece of kit; they’re nice displays that usually have enough inputs for the craziest home theatre setups. These TVs also run Linux, but until now we haven’t seen anything that capitalizes on the fact these displays are wall-mounted Linux boxen. [Sam] sent in an exploit to root any Bravia TV – hopefully the first step towards replacing our home media server.

The exploit itself is a regular buffer overflow initialized by a Python script. The script sets up a Telnet server on any Sony Bravia with a USB port, and provides complete root access. [Sam] was able to get a Debian install running off a USB drive and all the Debian programs run correctly.

If you have a Bravia you’d like to test [Sam]’s script on, you’ll need a USB network adapter for the TV and a Telnet client to explore your TV’s file system. Right now there’s not much to do with a rooted Bravia, but at least now running XMBC or other media server on a TV is possible.

If anyone would like to start porting XMBC to a Bravia TV, [Sam] says he’s more than willing to help out. We’re not aware of any HDTV modding communities on the Internet, so if you’re part of one post a link in the comments.

Petition for DMCA exemptions regarding Rooting/unlocking gadgets

So you’ve been rooting devices eh? If you get caught you’re headed for the big house, the lockup, the pen, the joint, they’ll send you up the river, you better be careful! Seriously though, if you buy a device and circumvent the security features should that in itself be breaking the law? We’re not talking about stealing intellectual property, like playing copied games on a chipped system (yeah, that’s stealing). We mean unlocking a device so that you can use it for what you wish. Be it your own prototyping, or running open-source applications. Unfortunately if the current Digital Millennium Copyright Act exemptions expire it will be a crime.

Thankfully, [Bunnie] is doing something about this. You may remember him as the guy that found most of the ridiculous security holes in the original Xbox, or the brain behind the Chumby. Now’s he’s got an online petition where your voice can be heard. Speak up and let the US politicians know why unlocking a device isn’t a crime.

[via Twitter]

How the Kindle Touch jailbreak was discovered

The Kindle Touch has been rooted! There’s a proof video embedded after the break, but the best part about this discovery is that [Yifan Lu] wrote in-depth about how he discovered and exploited a security hole in the device.

The process begins by getting a dump of the firmware. If you remove the case it’s not hard to find the serial port on the board, which he did. But by that time someone else had already dumped the image and uploaded it. We guess you could say that [Yifan] was shocked by what he found in the disassembly. This a ground-up rewrite compared to past Kindle devices and it seems there’s a lot to be hacked. The bootloader is not locked, but messing around with that is a good way to brick the device. The Javascript, which is the language used for the UI, is not obfuscated and Amazon included many hooks for later plugins. Long story short, hacks for previous Kindles won’t work here, but it should be easy to reverse engineer the software and write new ones.

Gaining access to the device is as easy as injecting some HTML code into the UI. It is then run by the device as root (no kidding!). [Yifan] grabbed an MP3 file, changed its tag information to the HTML attack code, then played the file on the device to exploit the flaw. How long before malicious data from illegally downloaded MP3 files ends up blanking the root file system on one of these?

Continue reading “How the Kindle Touch jailbreak was discovered”

Wii homebrew hack – no game discs required

Jailbreaking hacks have come and gone for the Wii, ever changing as Nintendo tweaks their software to prevent homebrew from running. Piracy concerns aside, there is a legitimate Wii homebrew scene, and a  new, easy to use tool has been released for those looking to give it a try.

Many of the previous jailbreaks relied on bugs found within official Wii games, but there’s a new kid on the block that requires nothing more than an Internet connection and an SD card. LetterBomb is the latest jailbreaking tool, which was created by an individual named [blasty]. It seems incredibly easy to use, requiring little more than entering your Wii’s MAC address into a web form. The site generates a customized jailbreak file, which your run on your Wii via the SD card – that’s all there is to it!

If I had a Wii, I would be hesitant to enter any sort of globally-unique number that could identify my console into a random web site, but perhaps I am being overly paranoid. Either way, it would be great to see an open-source version of this tool released so that jailbreaks could be done offline, without any risk of having your MAC address recorded.

[Thanks, blurry]