Exploring the MediaTek Baseband

A98925181b2256d38addf9c3f5bf4dea?s=47 Marco Grassi
February 14, 2020

Exploring the MediaTek Baseband


Marco Grassi

February 14, 2020


  1. Exploring the MediaTek Baseband Marco Grassi (@marcograss) – Kira (@0xKira233)

  2. About Us • Members of Tencent KEEN Security Lab (formerly

    known as KeenTeam) • Marco (@marcograss): • My main focus is iOS/Android/macOS and sandboxes. But now shifted to hypervisors, basebands, firmwares etc. • pwn2own 2016 Mac OS X Team • Mobile pwn2own 2016 iOS team • pwn2own 2017 VMWare escape team • Mobile pwn2own 2017 iOS Wi-Fi + baseband team • Kira (@0xKira233): • Security researcher at Tencent KeenLab • Interested in hypervisors, basebands etc. • CTF player in AAA / A*0*E, DEFCON 25 & 26
  3. About Tencent Keen Security Lab • Previously known as KeenTeam

    • White Hat Security Researchers • Several times pwn2own winners • We are based in Shanghai, China • Our blog is https://keenlab.tencent.com/en/ • Twitter @keen_lab
  4. Agenda • Previous Research • Networks (2G-5G) • 5G •

    Baseband Overview • The MTK Baseband • Conclusions
  5. Previous Research on MediaTek • “Understanding, Debugging and Attacking the

    MediaTek communication processor” - Charles Muiruri , Nitay Artenstein, Anna Dorfman • Introduces the MediaTek modem, where it’s popular and internal structure • “Path of Least Resistance: Cellular Baseband to Application Processor Escalation on MediaTek Devices” – Comsecuris, György Miru • Examine the attack surface from the modem to the application processor in order to escape the modem and compromise the phone, with a bug. • Not much public research
  6. Previous Research on Basebands • Exploitation of a Modern Smartphone

    Baseband (Huawei modem) – Keen Lab • A Walk With Shannon (Samsung modem) – Amat Cama • Comsecuris Blogpost (Intel Baseband)
  7. How this research started • In 2019 we got a

    contract with a vendor to improve the security of their modem • Recently we are working on a 5G project with another vendor • We previously worked on basebands and also a little bit on the MediaTek modem • We disclosed to the vendor a bunch of bugs in the modem and they were fixed • This talk covers some of our work, and how to bootstrap your own research on this modem.
  8. Why researching the MediaTek platform is relevant • “According to

    research company Statista, Qualcomm had 45% overall market share in 2018, followed by Apple with 17%, Samsung with 14%, MediaTek with 11% and Huawei with 8%.Aug 25, 2019” • MediaTek has a significant market share, especially on budget-mid price devices • They implement a lot of components, the SoC, the modem, etc • In Europe also there are several popular devices using the MediaTek SoC and Modem.
  9. Networks Overview • A modem (or “baseband”) is a set

    of hardware component that implements a set of specifications to communicate with a cellular network. • Several “generations” implemented, 2G to 5G usually Source: ResearchGate
  10. Networks overview (cont) • Old generations, 2G 2.5G for example,

    the phone don’t authenticate the base station • Possible to setup a fake base station and impersonate • Send malicious data (exploit) • Some newer stacks starting from 3G the phone authenticate the BTS • Not all layers and components are protected
  11. Network Overview (cont) • Like most well known network stacks,

    mobile stacks are also “layered” • Complexity often progressively higher the higher you go on the stack • (think like the difference TCP/IP vs full blown HTTP web app running on top of it)
  12. 5G

  13. 5G, Why 5G? • 2G/3G/4G the goal was to have

    cheap phones and cheap call/data plans, to get everyone connected. • 4G, high bandwidth, rich media, HD videos, content. • Now everyone has a smartphone with a data plan, how the carriers can make more money? There are no more people to sell a smartphone and a data plan.
  14. 5G, Why 5G? • 5G => cheap radios, lot of

    capacity. • How carrier can make money? • Connect everything! Devices, cars, sensors. • People already connected, now the only way to expand the market is to connect “THINGS”
  15. 5G, The big players • Huawei • Qualcomm • Intel

    • ZTE • Ericsson • Nokia • Samsung • …
  16. 5G, critical infrastructure • Expected capacity: 1 million connected objects

    for 1 km2 • In a 4G and lower network, most of the consumer are end users • In a 5G network? • Private deployments (in a factory for example, instead of using wires) • Connect industrial robots • Fleet of shared cars in a network slice • Medical equipment/ personal health equipment • Semaphores/ road traffic management network. • In a 4g network, reliability is important, but not TOO critical • In a 5g one, it might be, if you control critical infrastructure. • Also the connected devices are different in nature.
  17. None
  18. 5G, not only smartphones • This talk is mostly focused

    on smartphones because now they are the main consumers of baseband devices. • But this is rapidly changes, it can be readily applied to other areas such as smart cars, which have a modem of course. • Also, the “endpoints” are not the only attackable target .. Also base stations
  19. 5G not only smartphones, use cases • Enhanced Mobile Broadband

    (eMBB): richer and faster data consumption for humans, high definition videos, downloads etc. • Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communications (URLLC): MISSION CRITICAL applications, that cannot afford delays and unreliabilities. • Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC): Big networks of potentially low power devices. It must support low power consumtion and high capacity and low cost.
  20. 5G devices we are currently researching on • Huawei, recent

    models, mate30 pro, and portable wifi 5g router • Samsung Note 10 5g • Qualcomm devices
  21. Opensource 5G base station • There is no completely ready

    solution yet • Eurecom is working on the OpenAir5G and created a consortium to foster the development of a opensource 5G stack • Possible to use it with a SDR such as a USRP B210 • Still work in progress • We are actively tracking the progress and we hope we can use it (and maybe contribute to it) in the future for our 5G testing, without having to use closed source testing equipment
  22. Setting up a BTS software, TIPS and TRICKS • The

    best solution in our opinion for now is to use docker on linux • Can proxy the USB directly without the overhead of a virtualized USB 3.0 controller (latencies are bad for SDR) • The BTS software expects all kind of weird requirements, from linux version, to dependencies, to the most exotic ones: kernel changes or modules docker run -t -i --privileged -v /dev/bus/usb:/dev/bus/usb ubuntu bash
  23. Attacking the baseband in one slide + = Modified Base

    station software stack to trigger the exploit OpenBSC OpenBTS srsLTE … Software defined Radio, or equivalent hardware USRP BladeRF CMU200 (Testing hardware) Over the air exploit RCE inside the phone baseband
  24. A Modern Smartphone Architecture • A modern smartphone is not

    a single CPU executing an OS anymore. • Several other processors involved in the radio area: • Baseband processor • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth SoC • The baseband handles the radio communication with many types of networks: 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G etc. • Those radio components can be attacked remotely Source: https://googleprojectzero.blogspot.com/2017/04/over-air- exploiting-broadcoms-wi-fi_4.html
  25. A Modern Smartphone Architecture 2 • The AP runs your

    OS and apps (Android for example) • The Baseband runs a RTOS • They communicate with • USB • PCI-e • Shared Memory • SDIO • … • Separate systems. If you get RCE you run code on the Baseband, not the AP. • The Basebands lag behind in terms of mitigations compared to the AP • This lack of mitigations is widespread between all manufacturers. Source : https://www.evelta.com/introduction-smartphone- architecture
  26. The Baseband • Necessary components • RTOS • TEEOS handlers

    • Kernel modules • Usermode binary / library (RILD) / application • … • Most of them are attackable which depends on your target.
  27. How to start your research • Read the previous work,

    mentioned before • Download what you can download from the network. • Leaked source code if any • Reverse scripts • Vendor specific code • … • Extract the firmware from phone • Reverse engineering and bug hunting • 3GPP TS
  28. Leaks online • There is a widely available old version

    leaked on github, of some source code, and object files • Old ARM version • Might be still useful for bug hunting • You still need the firmware of the target though • The object files can be recompiled and linked together to fuzz in a binary instrumentation environment such as QEMU
  29. Architecture of MTK Baseband • Lots of functional tasks took

    over by RTOS • CM / MM / RR / SM / CC , etc • AT commands to communicate • Shared memory between AP and CP • CCCI (Cross Core Communication Interface) • IPC channel • /dev/tty[s] • CCCI FS • IOCTL
  30. Extract the firmware • Assume you have a rooted device

    • Available at /dev/block/by-name/* • For kernel • /dev/block/by-name/boot • Great tool: https://github.com/nforest/droidimg • For modem • /dev/block/by-name/md1img • No encryption at all
  31. Extract modem firmware • Format can be found in the

    source • 010 editor template to visualize • Code named md1rom • MIPS16e2 • 52.4 MB • Debug symbol named md1_dbginfo Source: https://www.mips.com/press/mediatek-selects-mips-for-lte-modems/
  32. What is MIPS16e2 • IDA pro failes to disassemble new

    instructions • We wrote tools to help reverse Source: https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/downloads-mips/documents/MD01172-2B-MIPS16e2-AFP-01.00.pdf
  33. Start to reverse • Load symbols from dbg file •

    Found in the image and sdcard. • Format can be guessed • Or explained in detail: tools/DebuggingSuite/convertAddr2FuncAndFile.pl • Fix the segments in IDA • Guess the base? No! • https://github.com/sgayou/rbasefind • Find some entrances to audit • Important functions’ handlers
  34. Task example • MM (Mobility Management) task • Main function,

    typical of RTOS system and modem, endless while loop, waiting and dequeuing messages and handling them. • It receives messages from other tasks and invokes mm_main
  35. Task example (cont) • Huge switch cases depending on the

    message ID • It’s not hard to find message handlers, although they are sometimes deep into the state machine • With the specifications you can search for the method names as well
  36. Fuzzing the binary • Target requirements • Complex enough to

    fuzz • No / Very few IPC calls • Decode / unpack functions catch our attention • mcd_unpack • errc_asn1_decoder • … • Write a C wrapper to call the target • Link what we need and compile provided APIs • AFL QEMU mode to do the fuzzing
  37. Crash log • Log shows in demsg • Log files

    store in the sdcard • Built-in log tool: *#800# --> Logkit • MTK makes its own format • Logged by dhl_trace and other similar functions • Reverse to get more information
  38. mcd_unpack • General message unpack function • Every message is

    handled by it first • BER encoding / TLV, bit stream like processing
  39. mcd_unpack • Crashes collected and reported • Each msgid has

    its sequence of opcodes • Works like a CPU • mcd_unpack_MAXBYTES kills most of memory corruption in advance • Restrict the length at the first stage
  40. Vulnerability cases • CEmmNMSrv::decodeEmergencyNumberList • EMM ATTACH ACCEPT message •

    No check on the index • No check whether the source msg is big enough • Heap overflow / OOB read Source: 3GPP TS 24.008 g20
  41. Vulnerability cases • sm_unpack_config_option • ACTIVATE PDP CONTEXT ACCEPT message

    • config_len_arr is an array on the stack • No check on the length from our message • Stack overflow Source: 3GPP TS 24.008 g20
  42. Writing POC • Our environment • Ubuntu 18.04 docker •

    OpenBTS • USRP B210 • Find the corresponding class • Modify the WriteBody method • OpenBTS will do the rest
  43. Mitigations (or lack of) • Lag behind the modern expected

    baseline • No stack cookies in functions performing copies with stack destinations.
  44. Thanks • We would like to thank the vendor we

    cooperated with and MediaTek for fast response and friendly atmosphere • Open to discussion and feedback • Very positive experience
  45. Questions?

  46. None