Signing bug

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Simple explanation

The signing (also known as Trucha) bug was a bug present in earlier IOS versions that allowed the digital signatures (which show that Nintendo had approved the content in question) of software to be easily faked, which allowed the installation of software that Nintendo had approved. Shortly after its widespread use appeared, it was patched, first in IOS37. This exploit was used in the original version of the Homebrew Channel installer, and is still used in many applications.

Detailed explanation

Here is a pseudocode implementation that shows the hash-comparison bug present in some versions of IOS:

struct rsa_cert {
    u32 key_id;
    char rsa_signature[1024];
    char metadata[32];
    char content_hash[20];

int verify_cert (struct rsa_cert cert) {
  char *cert_hash=SHA1(cert.metadata + cert.content_hash);
  char *sig_hash=rsa_decrypt(cert.rsa_signature, cert.key_id);

  if (strncmp(cert_hash, sig_hash, SHA1_LENGTH) == 0) {
     return CERT_OK;
  } else {
     return CERT_BAD;

int is_a_valid_disc(struct rsa_cert cert, char *disc_hash) {
   if(memcmp(disc_hash, cert.content_hash, SHA1_LENGTH) != 0)  {
     return DISC_BAD;

   if(verify_cert (cert) == CERT_BAD) {
     return DISC_BAD;
   } else {
     return DISC_OK;

The bug here is that cert_hash may contain a NULL byte ('\0'). To quote from the first google hit for strncmp:

"Compares up to num characters of the C string str1 to those of the C string str2. This function starts comparing the first character of each string. If they are equal to each other, it continues with the following pairs until the characters differ, until a terminating null-character is reached, or until num characters match in both strings, whichever happens first."

This last part means that if it finds a NULL byte, it stops comparing, even if there is more data after the NULL.

This reduces the effective length of the hash to the number of bytes before the NULL byte, and the difficulty of finding a hash collision is reduced from 2^(HASHLENGTH*8) to 2^(bytes before the null * 8). That is a big change if the NULL is early in the hash. Assuming the NULL is at the 4th byte, that means that there is a one in 2^(4*8) chance that the hash matches (three data bytes and the final NULL, which must also match). This is one in 4 294 967 296, fairly computable within a reasonable time frame on a current computer that can try a few million hash inputs each sec. Nintendo signatures that have these properties certainly exist.

Furthermore, since we can brute force both the SHA-1 hash of the content (by changing unused bytes) and the SHA-1 that results after decrypting (because Nintendo doesn't check the padding), all we have to do is brute force the first byte in both places. This only requires about 256 RSA decryptions and 256 SHA-1 sums, both of which can be computed in a fraction of a second. Furthermore, due to the mathematical properties of RSA, a zero input results in a zero output. All we have to do is zero out the signature and get a guaranteed result of all zeroes, regardless of what certificate is being used to decrypt. This reduces the time needed to build a fake signature to about 256 short SHA-1 sums, which can be done in mere milliseconds. The actual number of sums required can vary (and could theoretically be infinite), since SHA-1 behaves like a random number generator. This is why having to try a couple thousand times isn't uncommon, and why changing a single byte when bruteforcing is not sufficient.

tmbinc has a more thorough explanation here.

This bug was first fixed in IOS37. As of the 3.3 update the fix had spread to IOS30 & 31, and by Oct 23, 2008 it was in all but one IOS. This last IOS was fixed with the 4.0 update.