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+<!DOCTYPE html>
+<html>
+ <head>
+ <meta charset="UTF-8" name="charset"><!-- pelican??? -->
+ <title> About the ASN.1 Vulnerability</title>
+ <meta name="date" content="2016-08-07 13:00:00">
+ <meta name="last modified" content="2016-08-07 13:00:00">
+ <meta name="keywords" content="neo900, ASN.1, security, modem separation, GTA0x">
+ <meta name="authors" content="hellekin">
+ <meta name="description" content="Neo900 is not vulnerable to ASN.1 vulnerability. Here's why.">
+ </head>
+
+ <body>
+
+ <p class="lead">
+ A recent vulnerability disclosure threatens billions of
+ smartphones. What's the fuss about it? How does Neo900 fare
+ against this threat? Hint: pretty well.
+ </p>
+
+ <h1 id="asn1-vulnerability">ASN.1 Vulnerability</h1>
+
+ <p>Following the decision of <abbr title="National Institute for
+ Standards and Technology">NIST</abbr> to deprecate usage of SMS in
+ two-factor authentication (we'll come back on this in an upcoming
+ installment), this vulnerability disclosure confirms the interest
+ of the unique design of Neo900 that isolates the baseband chip
+ from power supply, making it dependent on the <abbr title="Central
+ Processing Unit">CPU</abbr> (and the <abbr title="Operating
+ System">OS</abbr>) to access anything else on the system, and
+ preventing remote activation of the chip in the first place.</p>
+
+ <p>Lucas Molas of <em>Programa STIC</em> discovered a <cite>Heap
+ memory corruption in ASN.1 parsing code generated by Objective
+ Systems Inc. ASN1C compiler for C/C++</cite> potentially affecting
+ billions of phone users worldwide. The proprietary software
+ vendor received a bug report via <em>plain text email</em> on
+ June, 1<sup>st</sup>, 2016, according to
+ the <a href="https://github.com/programa-stic/security-advisories/tree/master/ObjSys/CVE-2016-5080/">CVE-2016-5080</a>
+ released on July, 18<sup>th</sup>, 2016 to the public in a
+ coordinated release with the vendor.</p>
+
+ <blockquote>Abstract Syntax Notation One (<abbr title="Abstract
+ Syntax Notation One">ASN.1</abbr>) is a technical standard and
+ formal notation that describes rules and structures for
+ representing, encoding, transmitting, and decoding data in
+ telecommunications and computer networking.</blockquote>
+
+ <blockquote>A vulnerability found in the runtime support
+ libraries of the ASN1C compiler for C/C++ from Objective
+ Systems Inc. could allow an attacker to remotely execute code
+ in software systems, including embeded software and firmware,
+ that use code generated by the ASN1C compiler. The
+ vulnerability could be triggered remotely without any
+ authentication in scenarios where the vulnerable code receives
+ and processes <abbr>ASN.1</abbr> encoded data from untrusted
+ sources, these may include communications between mobile
+ devices and telecommunication network infrastructure nodes,
+ communications between nodes in a carrier's network or across
+ carrier boundaries, or communication between mutually untrusted
+ endpoints in a data network.</blockquote>
+
+ <p>The proprietary software vendor released a hot patch (v7.0.1)
+ available upon request to their customers, and will integrate the
+ fix in the upcoming v7.0.2 of their compiler.</p>
+
+ <p>On July, 1<sup>st</sup>, Programa STIC mentioned
+ that <q>memory corruption bugs in <abbr>ASN.1</abbr> related
+ components of an <abbr title="Long Term Evolution">LTE</abbr>
+ stack have been announced or hinted at in several infosec
+ conference presentations over the past few weeks and its likely
+ the same or similar bugs will become public soon.</q></p>
+
+ <h2>How is Neo900 Affected?</h2>
+
+ <p>The short answer is: Neo900 is not affected. Keep reading to
+ know why.</p>
+
+ <p>In
+ our <a href="https://neo900.org/news/paypal-resumes-neo900-sources-again">last
+ communication</a> we noted that <q><strong>Neo900 is the only
+ phone that provides a hardware protection from remote
+ activation of the baseband chip</strong></q>.</p>
+
+ <p id="anchor-gta0x">In fact, the
+ <a href="#note-gta0x"><strong>GTA0x</strong> design</a> contains
+ two unique features:
+ <ul>
+ <li>the modem is detached from the power source, unlike other
+ smartphones, so that the modem has to be authorized by
+ the <abbr>CPU</abbr> before it can perform its tasks.</li>
+ <li>the modem and the <abbr>CPU</abbr> <strong>do not share
+ <abbr title="Random Access Memory">RAM</abbr>, which
+ prevents a whole range of attack vectors where a rogue
+ baseband chip, either by design, by "lawful" or illegal
+ action, could take control of memory segments pertaining to
+ other subsystems and inject malicious code.</li>
+ </ul>
+ Neo900 takes advantage of this and incorporates circuitry to
+ give the <abbr>CPU</abbr> the capacity to monitor:
+ <ul>
+ <li>the modem access to power and its consumption</li>
+ <li>the activity of the modem antenna</li>
+ <li>the activation of the
+ <abbr title="Global Positioning System">GPS</abbr>
+ part of the modem</li>
+ <li>other interfaces (e.g., digital
+ <abbr title="Pulse-Code Modulation">PCM</abbr> audio</li>
+ </ul>
+ </p>
+
+ <p>Therefore this vulnerability that potentially plagues most
+ commercial phones on the planet, won't affect Neo900 like it
+ will other devices. In other designs where RAM is shared and a
+ rogue modem can access the power supply at will, the attack
+ surface is infinitely larger, and exploiting a vulnerability
+ such as the <abbr>ASN.1</abbr> bug will grant access to the
+ whole system.</p>
+
+ <p>But with Neo900, only a rare combination of hardware
+ vulnerability in the <abbr title="Universal Serial
+ Bus">USB</abbr> connecting the modem to the <abbr>CPU</abbr>,
+ and a software vulnerability would have a remote chance to do
+ that. As long as there's no proprietary vulnerable binary blobs
+ in the Neo900 <abbr title="Application Processor
+ Environment">APE</abbr>, the chance of a modem bug bubbling up
+ to the rest of the system without a way to control it and fix
+ it in software remains null.</p>
+
+ <p>Our exclusive Neo900 design is more valuable than ever!</p>
+
+ <p>Thank you for your attention,</p>
+
+ <p>&ndash; hellekin for the Neo900 team</p>
+
+ <p>P.S.: Feedback is welcome! Did you enjoy reading this post?
+ What else should it have covered? What do you want to read in the
+ news? You can tell me: hellekin at neo900 dot org, or in the
+ comments.</p>
+
+ <p id="note-gta0x" class="footnote">Footnote: from Openmoko Neo
+ 1973 and FreeRunner, to Golden Delicious GTA04 and maybe the
+ upcoming Pyra, and of course Neo900, GTA0x design supports modem
+ separation, although not power separation in Neo 1973
+ (GTA01). <a href="#anchor-gta0x" title="back to text">^^</a></p>
+
+</body>
+</html>