Controlling a Smartphone from an Architectural Vantage Point presented at BSidesROC 2013

by Kirk Swidowski,

Tags: Security

Summary : This talk introduces VERTIGO: a modular custom thin-microvisor for the ARM architecture. It is installed through an Operating System (OS) specific loader that dynamically suspends execution, decouples the OS from its underlying hardware and hoists it into a state analogous to a virtual machine. VERTIGO is considered a virtualization technology but is unique as it does not require any source code modifications of the underlying OS to maintain control and synchronization, unlike OKL4 and CODEZERO. The microvisor targets the Cortex -A8 and -A9 series SoCs and has been tested with the Apple iPhone 4 (iOS 5.1.1) and Samsung Galaxy SIII (Android 4.0.4).
The VERTIGO microvisor represents a unique capability that showcases what is possible at the architectural level. While its primary purpose is to aid in reverse engineering and other security related research tasks, the techniques could be misused to assist with nefarious activities. The benefits of exposing this capability will hopefully be twofold. First, advance the state-of-the-art in tools available when performing reverse engineering and other security related research tasks. Second, allow mitigation technologies to be designed and developed to prevent malicious software from leveraging the same techniques.