The Forgotten Threat of Voltage Glitching: A Case Study on Nvidia Tegra X2 SoCs

AuthorBittner, Otto; Krachenfels, Thilo; Galauner, Andreas; Seifert, Jean-Pierre
TypeConference Paper
AbstractVoltage fault injection (FI) is a well-known attack technique that can be used to force faulty behavior in processors during their operation. Glitching the supply voltage can cause data value corruption, skip security checks, or enable protected code paths. At the same time, modern systems on a chip (SoCs) are used in security-critical applications, such as self-driving cars and autonomous machines. Since these embedded devices are often physically accessible by attackers, vendors must consider device tampering in their threat models. However, while the threat of voltage FI is known since the early 2000s, it seems as if vendors still forget to integrate countermeasures. This work shows how the entire boot security of an Nvidia SoC, used in Tesla's autopilot and Mercedes-Benz's infotainment system, can be circumvented using voltage FI. We uncover a hidden bootloader that is only available to the manufacturer for testing purposes and disabled by fuses in shipped products. We demonstrate how to re-enable this bootloader using FI to gain code execution with the highest privileges, enabling us to extract the bootloader's firmware and decryption keys used in later boot stages. Using a hardware implant, an adversary might misuse the hidden bootloader to bypass trusted code execution even during the system's regular operation.
ConferenceWorkshop on Fault Diagnosis and Tolerance in Cryptography (FDTC) 2021