A little over 2 years ago a band of miscreants came together from an XDA developers forum post and started working together to get privileged code execution on the Google TV. Little did we know that the challenges would be greater than anyone could imagine.
When the Google TV was released it was easily one of the most locked down Android devices containing a signature enforced bootloader which established a “chain of trust” between it and every component loaded thereafter. The hardened state of the kernel the device came with made things even worse, with the kernel enforcing module signing as well as lacking most of the popular Android vulnerabilities that were plaguing the mobile world. This Android device was truly unlike most others.
So we began work attempting to win an advertised cash bounty for being the first to gain root access on the newly released device. After some work, we posted the first root method for the Logitech Revue, winning a $500 prize. Since then it has been our goal to make Google TV an open platform by unlocking each released device. There were plenty of challenges along the way, in the form of long nights reversing code and many bricked devices. But along with the challenges there have also been many triumphs in the form of releases.
Going over some of our biggest acheivements in the last 2 years:
- Found and released a hardware root method for the Logitech Revue and assisted Dr. Dan Rosenberg in finding a software root exploit.
- Found and released multiple exploits for the Sony NSZ-GT1 and Sony Google TV television line, breaking the established chain of trust.
- Received a secret message from Logitech within the stock recovery on the Logitech Revue.
- Released our own customized and completely open Google TV kernel which utilized a chain of exploits to execute.
- Had the opportunity to present at the 20th annual “DEFCON” security conference in which we we teased a root exploit for the newly released NSZ-GS7 but are still waiting to leverage it until more hardware comes out.
- While working on porting the Boxee OS to the Google TV we found and released 2 exploits which have enabled the Boxee community to install a popular modification package known as Boxee+.
- We released a modification package for the Hisense Pulse which leveraged the intial debug configuration of the device for root, disabled automatic updates, and modified the flash plug-in allowing you to watch Hulu and other previously blocked content providers.
In regards to the future of GTVHacker, over the past month we found and have been developing an exploit which will allow for custom kernels to be run on most of the newest generation of Google TV devices. We’ve also (cj_000 specifically) been busy making a custom recovery specifically designed for the Google TV. You may already know this but, there are a number of differences between the Google TV and other Android devices and these difference make it impossible to simply build a popular AOSP based recovery or kernel image. Due to these differences, we had to make our own recovery from scratch. At the time of writing this it’s still in a beta phase and rather simple. It only allows for installation of an update.zip package from usb. This can be a modified update, a superuser binary and apk or whatever else you wish. We’ve also started adb over ethernet to allow for custom system changes that may require more interaction than a update package.
Below is a quick demo of the custom recovery mentioned above being tested on a Sony NSZ-GS7 Google TV device. We currently don’t have a release date set as we are trying to keep most of the specifics private in order to avoid an update that could patch the exploit before the community gets to utilize it. We just wanted to give the community a sneak peek at what we’ve been working on privately over the last few months. So sit tight, 2013 will be a great year for the Google TV and GTVHacker!