A couple weeks ago Apple finally released the XNU source code for macOS Catalina. It looks like they have now added more of the open source packages needed to build the entire XNU kernel, so it’s time to update my build instructions.
The recent release of macOS 10.15.2 had some additional updates to the Xprotect yara rules within it. After reviewing what changed in the yara rules I decided to dig a little deeper into how Xprotect gets called. Jonathan Levin’s excellent book MacOS and iOS Internals, Volume III: Security & Insecurity briefly talks about Gatekeeper and Xprotect but didn’t have the internals I was looking for. I ended up finding Patrick Wardle’s excellent presentation from the 2015 Virus Bulletin Conference. His slide deck does a great job of explinaing the communication between
CoreServicesUIAgent and the
XprotectService. It did, however, make me question what all does
CoreServicesUIAgent do? This posts digs into the internals of
CoreServicesUIAgent and documents its functionality.
With the release of macOS Catalina in October, Apple rolled out a set of interesting new features collectively called System Extensions. System Extensions are a set of user space frameworks encouraging developers who currently maintain and ship kernel extensions to move their features to user space for increased security and stability. One of these new frameworks is the Endpoint Security framework. As a security researcher this framework is of special interest. It’s intended to provide a public and stable API for implementing security products. During the process of looking into what functionality the Endpoint Security framework provided, a privilege escalation bug was identified that would let an attacker execute any code they wanted with root privileges. The following describes both the vulnerability as well as what Apple did to fix the issue.
One of the most exciting things announced at this years WWDC was System Extensions. From a security perspective I think this is a really important advancedment for macOS. It means less third party code running in kernel space which should mean more security and stability. From a programmers perspective I think this is even more important. It means that the code developers previously had to write in C++ can now be written in a more modern language like Swift. Apple has been attempting to wrangle in kexts for a while now and this seems to be the final nail in the coffin. They have said macOS 10.15 will be the last release to fully support kexts without compromises and that in future releases of macOS Kernel Extensions with System Extension equivalents will not load at all. I thought it might be interesting to look at the internals of how System Extensions work.