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Microsoft has quietly killed a vulnerability that can be exploited to unlock ARM-powered Windows RT tablets and boot non-Redmond-approved operating systems.
The Register has learned that one of the security holes addressed this week in the July edition of Microsoft's Patch Tuesday closes a backdoor left in Windows RT by its programmers during its development.
Backdoor - Slab - Bootloader - Operating - System
That backdoor can be exploited to unlock the slab's bootloader and start up an operating system of your choice, such as GNU/Linux or Android, provided it supports the underlying hardware.
Normally, Windows RT devices are locked down to only boot software cryptographically signed by Microsoft. That's left some Windows RT owners frustrated because they're unable to switch to another OS: the firmware refuses to accept non-Microsoft code, and curious minds have been trying for years now to defeat these defenses and run whatever they want. The bootloader cannot be unlocked even if you have administrator-level access on the device.
Windows - RT - X - Devices - Processors
Windows RT is essentially Windows 8.x ported to devices powered by 32-bit ARMv7-compatible processors. It is a dead-end operating system, though: Microsoft has stopped developing it, and mainstream support for Surface RT tabs runs out in 2017 and Windows RT 8.1 in 2018.
This is why a means to bypass its boot mechanisms is highly sought. Yet, one was right under everyone's noses in the operating system – and MS16-094 released this week closes that loophole, according to computer security sources who asked to remain anonymous.
So if you want to investigate...
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