spl: allow board_spl_fit_post_load() to fail

Heinrich Schuchardt xypron.glpk at gmx.de
Sat May 9 20:09:39 CEST 2020

On 5/9/20 7:45 PM, Patrick Wildt wrote:
> On Sat, May 09, 2020 at 06:38:33PM +0200, Heinrich Schuchardt wrote:
>> On 5/9/20 6:13 PM, Patrick Wildt wrote:
>>> On i.MX platforms board_spl_fit_post_load() can check the loaded
>>> SPL image for authenticity using its HAB engine.  U-Boot's SPL
>>> mechanism allows booting images from other sources as well, but
>>> in the current setup the SPL would just hang if it encounters an
>>> image that does not pass scrutiny.  Allowing the function to return
>>> an error, allows the SPL to try booting from another source as a
>>> fallback instead of ending up as a brick.
>>> Signed-off-by: Patrick Wildt <patrick at blueri.se>
>> Could an intruder abuse this by destroying a signed image and providing
>> an unsigned image on a source under his control?
>> Best regards
>> Heinrich
> Sure, let's think about it here.  Maybe you have some more thoughts to
> add.
> First of all, the SPL goes through all the boot devices, and if there's
> none to find with an image, it will hang.  It will hang like it does
> before the diff.  The only difference is that it tries additional
> sources before hanging.  Thus the attacker, unless he can exploit it
> in his first trial, or is able to force a reset, must have some access
> to reset the machine to have it boot and try  again.  This seems like he
> must have some kind of local or remote phyiscal access.
> Let's assume the image is on the network or on another remote medium.
> Then I guess the attacker will just try to attack that medium, and the
> alternate boot sources won't make a difference.
> I guess that means we should focus on local sources.  I think we can
> also ignore a removable SD card, since he can just put in another one
> and try again.
> So maybe let's think about SPI flash and eMMC, soldered on, not directly
> accessible.  If he has physical access, I guess he could open up the box
> and desolder a few pins, or add some voltage here and there to try and
> disrupt the bootup.  But, then maybe it's easier to just desolder the
> whole SPI/eMMC and add his own.
> But what if he doesn't have that access?  If he's remote?  Ok, he will
> probably have to exploit the daemon (webserver or whatever) to gain some
> code execution.  Then he'll try and become root, so he can access the
> disks.  Then I figure he'll try and overwrite or remove the image.
> With this, on the next reboot it will (hopefully) fail to boot, unless
> he already has an exploit, then my patch won't make a difference.
> I figure the real issue could be that when the attacker has physical
> access, manages to remove/replace the image with a fallback to load from
> a device like an SD card, that it's now easier for him to try and find
> an exploit.

This last scenario is what I was thinking of.

So if HAB is used it may be ok to search all devices for signed images
but non-signed images should be rejected. Is that given with your patch?

Best regards


> Am I missing something?
> Best regards,
> Patrick

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