CVE-2022-42864 - Diabolical Cookies

iOS 16.2 and macOS Ventura 13.1 released just over a month ago, fixing an interesting vulnerability that I reported in IOHIDFamily. I would like to share the details of that vulnerability today.

The Bug

Apple's comment from the source code when this issue was fixed sums this up nicely:

// Find the number of cookies in the data. The data from elementData is shared with user space and may change at any time.

Let us have a look at the function before the patch (I have tried to label relevant lines):

IOReturn IOHIDDevice::postElementTransaction(const void* elementData, UInt32 dataSize, UInt32 completionTimeout, IOHIDCompletion * completion)
    IOReturn ret = kIOReturnError;
    uint32_t   cookies_[kMaxLocalCookieArrayLength];
    uint32_t   *cookies = cookies_;
    uint32_t   cookieCount = 0;
    uint32_t   cookieSize = 0;
    uint32_t   dataOffset = 0;
    uint8_t    *data = (uint8_t*)elementData;
    IOMemoryDescriptor *elementDesc = getMemoryWithCurrentElementValues();
    require(_elementArray && elementDesc, fail);


    // Find the number of cookies in the data. Check that all cookies are valid elements.                   [1]
    while (dataOffset < dataSize) {
        const IOHIDElementValueHeader *headerPtr = (const IOHIDElementValueHeader *)(data + dataOffset);
        IOHIDElementPrivate *element = GetElement(headerPtr->cookie);
        if (!element) {
            HIDDeviceLogError("Could not find element for cookie: %d", headerPtr->cookie);
            ret = kIOReturnAborted;
            goto fail;

        require_noerr_action(os_add3_overflow(dataOffset, headerPtr->length, sizeof(IOHIDElementValueHeader), &dataOffset), fail, HIDDeviceLogError("Overflow iterating cookie data buffer %u %u", dataOffset, headerPtr->length));
    // Data isn't as large as expected, don't overrun, just abort
    if (dataOffset != dataSize) {   //                                                                      [2]
        HIDDeviceLogError("Cookie data buffer is smaller than expected. %u vs. %u",
                        (unsigned int)dataSize, (unsigned int)dataOffset);
        ret = kIOReturnAborted;
        goto fail;
    dataOffset = 0;

    require_noerr_action(os_mul_overflow(cookieCount, sizeof(uint32_t), &cookieSize),
                        HIDDeviceLogError("Overflow calculating cookieSize"));

    cookies = (cookieCount <= kMaxLocalCookieArrayLength) ? cookies : (uint32_t*)IOMallocData(cookieSize); // [3]

    if (cookies == NULL) {
        ret = kIOReturnNoMemory;
        goto fail;

    // Update the elements, this replaced the shared kernel-user shared memory.
    for (size_t index = 0; dataOffset < dataSize; ++index) {    //                                          [4]
        const IOHIDElementValueHeader *headerPtr;
        IOHIDElementPrivate *element;
        OSData *elementVal;

        headerPtr = (const IOHIDElementValueHeader *)(data + dataOffset);
        element = GetElement(headerPtr->cookie);
        dataOffset += headerPtr->length + sizeof(IOHIDElementValueHeader);

        elementVal = OSData::withBytesNoCopy((void*)headerPtr->value,
                                            headerPtr->length); //                                          [5]
        require_action(elementVal, fail, ret = kIOReturnNoMemory);

        cookies[index] = headerPtr->cookie; //                                                              [6]

    // Actually post elements
    ret = postElementValues((IOHIDElementCookie *)cookies, (UInt32)cookieCount, 0, completionTimeout, completion);

    if (cookies != &cookies_[0]) {
        IOFreeData(cookies, cookieSize);

    return ret;
  1. The loop at [1] counts the number of IOHIDElementValues in the buffer, and stores this count in cookieCount.
  2. The check at [2] (combined with the condition of the while loop) will make sure that the length field of each header does not extend out of the bounds of the elementData buffer (nor can it fall short of the end of the buffer, although this is less relevant).
  3. Once all the elements have been counted and sanity-checked by this loop, a cookies buffer is allocated to the heap at [3] with a size of cookieCount * 4 (or a stack buffer is used if cookieCount is sufficiently small).
  4. A second loop at [4] then makes a second pass through the buffer, parsing the IOHIDElementValues again.
  5. OSData objects are created to hold each element's value at [5], using the length field that was validated in the first loop.
  6. At [6], each element's cookie is written into the cookies array allocated at [3].
So what's the issue? This function behaves entirely correctly when elementData is non-volatile, the issue comes when the method is called with shared memory. Enter the IOHIDInterface::SetElementValues_Impl DriverKit method:

IMPL(IOHIDInterface, SetElementValues)
    IOReturn ret = kIOReturnError;
    UInt8 *values = NULL;
    IOBufferMemoryDescriptor *md = NULL;
    md = OSDynamicCast(IOBufferMemoryDescriptor, elementValues);
    require_action(md && count, exit, ret = kIOReturnBadArgument);

    values = (UInt8 *)md->getBytesNoCopy();
    // Post the data to the device
    ret = _owner->postElementTransaction(values, (UInt32)md->getLength());
    require_noerr_action(ret, exit, HIDServiceLogError("postElementValues failed: 0x%x", ret));

    return ret;

Here, postElementTransaction is called with md->getBytesNoCopy(), memory shared with userspace, violating the assumption that elementData is non-volatile. The content of the elementData buffer can change after the loop at [1], but before the loop at [4], so what does this mean for an attacker?

There are two ways an attacker can abuse this:
  • The first is to swap the length of a small IOHIDElementValueHeader at the end of the buffer to a much larger value. This means that when the OSData at [5] is created, it will extend far outside the bounds of the elementData buffer, allowing an attacker to read out-of-bounds data using IOHIDInterface::GetElementValues_Impl.
  • The second is to swap the length of a large IOHIDElementValueHeader at the beginning of the buffer to a much smaller value. This will make the loop at [4] parse many more headers than were originally counted in the loop at [1], so when cookies are written to the cookies array at [6], they will overflow out of the array as index is never validated against cookieCount.
In practice, this allows an attacker to read out-of-bounds kernel heap data of an arbitrary size, and to write arbitrary data (again of an arbitrary size) out-of-bounds to the kernel heap. These are two powerful primitives.

Winning the race

With race conditions, we always look for ways to determine whether the race was won successfully, that way we can keep retrying until we succeed, making our trigger deterministic. Luckily in the case of this race condition, we can do exactly that.

For the OOB read variant, I place one more IOHIDElementValueHeader after the header that I'm switching the length of, with its value set to the recognisable constant of 0xD1AB011CAC1DF00D. Then, when reading the value of the element back, I know I have won the race if I see the familiar 0xD1AB011CAC1DF00D header at the start of the returned data.

For the OOB write variant, I place one IOHIDElementValueHeader after the header that I'm switching the length of, but before the headers whose cookies will be overflowed, this time with the recognisable value of 0xD15EA5ED. This header will be encapsulated inside the value of the larger element in the case where we do not win the race, so the header will only be parsed and the element's value be set to 0xD15EA5ED if we win the race. By reading back the element's value, I know whether I was successful.

Apple's fix

To fix the issue, Apple chose to add a third loop in between loop [1] and loop [4], validating each length field, and then caching it in a new dataLengths array, while ensuring the number of elements had not changed. The final loop then uses the cached lengths for its calculations, avoiding reading from the buffer another time.

Issues with exploitation

The main obstacle to overcome when exploiting this issue is that the buffer we are overflowing out of belongs to KHEAP_DATA_BUFFERS, so exploitation targets are limited. In this proof-of-concept I chose to target kmsg headers, as these are one of very few structures in KHEAP_DATA_BUFFERS that contain kernel pointers. The "arbitrary kfree" primitive I obtained using this approach is the same primitive used in the multicast_bytecopy exploit, however the IOSurfaceClient array is now PAC'd and forged clients need to have a valid pointer back to the IOSurfaceRootUserClient that created them, rendering this no longer a desirable kernel r/w target.


My proof-of-concept exploit for this issue, along with partial build instructions, is available on my GitHub:

Thanks for Reading

Thank you for making it this far! If you have any questions about this bug, feel free to drop me a message on Twitter @Muirey03 :)


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