On the future of Rejuvenate

Since, the announcement ten days ago, Rejuvenate received tons of positive reception and thousands of downloads. Progress on both SDK projects is moving at fast speeds. There are already Vita homebrew projects in the works. No doubt, there are more to come. However, Sony’s response has not been positive. Yesterday, Sony released firmware 3.52 which revokes access to PSM DevAssistant and PSM Unity DevAssistant along with a friendly request for PSM developers to delete the DevAssistant from their devices. This means that if you ever want to run homebrew on your Vita, regardless of your opinions on the current limitations and regardless of your ability to use PSM, do NOT update to 3.52.

CHIP-8 emulator by @xerpi, picture by @Chihab_rm

CHIP-8 emulator by @xerpi, picture by @Chihab_rm

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Hacking the PS Vita

The following was taken from a series of unpublished posts I wrote back in September 2012 (almost three years ago). The posts not only detail the exploit I found but also the thought process that led me to it. I intended to publish it as soon as the exploit was patched by Sony or after someone found another exploit on the system by examining the memory dumps. However, as of today, the PSM privilege escalation is still the only known way to execute native ARM code on the PS Vita. Apologizes for the outdated references.


To start, lets brainstorm the different ways we can attack this black box of a device. Typically, a new device is unlocked in a process that usually involves: 1) dumping the device’s RAM/ROM/NAND, 2) analyzing the dumps for information and vulnerabilities, 3) using the vulnerability to create a tool that allows others to easily gain root access.
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Secure your eMMC devices!

Most of our embedded devices use eMMC, but security into eMMC (as far as I know) has not been extensively studied or taken account of in threat models. In the small sample of devices I’ve looked at, the ability to send raw commands to the eMMC only requires kernel access. If you look at the Android platform, kernel hacks are not uncommon and remote kernel hacks are also not a rarity. There are certain commands that a hacker can send which can permanently disable (brick) a device. Continue reading

Calling all coders: We need you to help create an open Vita SDK!

One of largest barrier to native PS Vita homebrew is the lack of an open toolchain and SDK. Essentially, we need something like pspsdk for the Vita. The reason why we don’t have it is because there are people who have an understanding of how the Vita’s executable format works but lack the time to code up the tools and there are people who have the time and ability to create such tools but lack the knowledge of Vita’s internals. The solution, I believe is to publish a comprehensive document detailing how the Vita’s executable format is laid out and the requirements for an open toolchain. Anyone with coding skills can now work on an open SDK; no Vita knowledge required! Continue reading

Opening Up CARDBOARD: Crafting an American New 3DS (non-XL)

Last time, I analyzed now update checks worked on the 3DS. That was a straightforward process. CARDBOARD (known colloquially as “System Transfer”) is a bundle of complexity with no less than three separate servers communicating with each other as well as the device. A custom proprietary protocol is used for 3DS to 3DS communication. Finally, we have multiple unique identifiers the console uses to identify itself with Nintendo (serial, certificates, console id, account id, etc). I can’t imagine this will be comprehensive, but I hope that whoever is reading can gain new insight on the complexity of the 3DS ecosystem. Continue reading

Reversing Gateway Ultra Stage 3: Owning ARM9 Kernel

First, some background: the 3DS has two main processors. Last time, I went over how Gateway Ultra exploited the ARM11 processor. However, most of the interesting (from a security perspective) functionalities are handled by a separate ARM946 processor. The ARM9 processor is in charge of the initial system bootup, some system services, and most importantly all the cryptographic functions such as encryption/decryption and signature/verification. In this post, we will look at how to run (privileged) code on the ARM9 processor with privileged access to the ARM11 processor. Please note that this writeup is a work in progress as I have not completely figured out how the exploit works (only the main parts of it). Specifically there are a couple of things that I do not know if it is done for the sake of the exploit or if it is done purely for stability or obfuscation. From a developer’s perspective, it doesn’t matter because as long as you perform all the steps, you will achieve code execution. But from a hacker’s perspective, the information is not complete unless all aspects are known and understood. I am posting this now as-is because I do not know when I’ll have time to work on the 3DS again. However, when I do, I will update the post and hopefully clear up all confusion. Continue reading