On Friday, Jay Freeman announced on Twitter that he exploited a known vulnerability and subsequently achieved root access to his developer-model of Google Glass – Google’s highly anticipated, wearable, head-mounted computer.
Around the same time, another notable hacker, Liam McLoughlin, tweeted that he exploited the same bug to achieve shell and later root access.

Freeman, a mobile researcher and self-proclaimed technology consultant, is also known by the handle ‘Saurik.’ He is perhaps best known as a jailbreak proponent, having developed Cydia, a popular application that enables the installation of other applications on rooted iOS devices. Jailbreaking is a process through which users exploit hardware or software vulnerabilities to unlock mobile and other computer devices, freeing them from the limitations of built-in, proprietary software.

On Twitter, Freeman wrote that Google Glass runs on Android 4.0.4; a version of the Jelly Bean mobile operating system that apparently contains a restore vulnerability in the Android debug bridge that, if exploited, leads to a race condition.

In an Interview with Forbes’s Andy Greenberg, Freeman explained that he achieved his jailbreak by backing the device up, then modifying the backup file before restoring it to the device. During the restore process, Freeman says he redirected certain restore-data in order to overwrite a critical configuration file. This process tricked Google Glass into thinking it was running a fully-controllable Android emulator that developers use to freely test mobile applications on traditional laptop or desktop environments.

McLoughlin, who is also known by the palindromic handle Hexxeh, tweeted similarly that, “There’s a “debug mode” option on Glass that appears to enable ADB access. I got a shell on my Glass.” He noted that he had not yet achieved root-level access. Shortly thereafter, McLoughlin tweeted that root access was easy as well, claiming that “reboot-bootloader gives you a fastboot original equipment manufacturer (OEM) unlock.”

It should be noted that Freeman and McLoughlin performed their jailbreaks on a pre-release, developer model of Google Glass. The consumer variety of Google Glass will likely differ from the dev-model and it’s hard to say whether these exploits will work on the publicly available model.

In response to the McLoughlin hack, Tim Bray of Google tweeted, “Yes, Glass is hackable. Duh.”

Another Google employee, Dan Morill, was quick to clarify on his Google Plus page that, technically speaking, Freeman’s hack did not achieve root access, but was rather a “fastboot OEM unlock.”

Categories: Hacks, Mobile Security, Vulnerabilities

Comments (5)

  1. anon

    OMG fix the font. Threatpost articles have become unreadable. It might look arty but it’s no good if it gives everyone eye strain. I can’t believe anyone signed off on this.

    • Brian Donohue

      Sorry about the font. I’d fix it myself if I could, but unfortunately it’s out of my hands at the moment. I’ve been highlighting the text in order to make it easier to read. That said, it will be fixed soon.

  2. Kevin

    “..Freeman explained that he achieved his jailbreak by backing the device up, then modifying the backup file before..”

    Your terminology usage is incorrect.
    “Jailbreaking” is used in reference to iPhones (iOS).

    “Rooting” is used in reference to Androids OS’s. Google Glasses are NOT running iOS!!

  3. taryn

    Oh Kevin … your youth is showing. “Rooting” is a term that existed for decades before Android. It refers to exploits that allow one to become root user of a unix system. It was subsequently applied to root-access exploits against any unix-based or unix-like system including linux, OSX, Android, or iOS. “Jailbreaking” means rooting, and while it may have been used first to describe rooting iOS devices, the first “jailed” unix devices to achieve worldwide recognition, it became synonymous with “rooting” as soon as there were other popular jailed devices, e.g. android.

  4. Kevin

    Hi Taryn,
    Thanks for the youth comment. I try hard to maintain this beautiful physique. I am well aware of the origins of the term “rooting” chroot, its origins and all of the Cliché uses of the term including “Got Root?”. My posting was illustrating modern day adaptation and usage of the terms. To further my point, Google the word “jailbreak” and tell me what ALL results for the first ten pages are about? I’ll save you the time: iOS/iPhone. Lets do that same fun experiment with the word “rooting”. Granted, you will get a few other fun definitions not pertaining to anything electronic, but the ones that do all reference Android.

    My original comment about correcting the author in his incorrect usage of the modern day term “Jailbreak” in reference to “Rooting” the Android OS stands rather firm. 100 million google users can’t be wrong.

    In all fairness your posting/comment also shows your age. You might want to consider investing in a box of ‘Just for Men – Mustache and Beard solution’ Just saying 😉

Comments are closed.