Windows RT jailbreak tool released, opens door to desktop apps

By on January 11, 2013, 9:30 AM

Well, that was fast. Less than a week after reports emerged about a workaround to allow any unsigned ARM-based application run on Windows RT, a senior member at the XDA-Developers forums has crafted a jailbreak tool that automates the process and makes it accessible to non-technical users.

As originally reported, the restriction of installing only Metro-style apps on Windows RT is enforced through a code integrity mechanism that checks the application's signature before allowing it to be installed. This mechanism is hardcoded in the kernel itself and cannot be modified permanently in systems using UEFI Secure Boot. But it can be changed in memory after locating the setting in question.

The Windows RT jailbreak tool is based on the same tethered technique demonstrated by the hacker clrokr. That means it will need to be reapplied each time the machine is rebooted, but it will save you from having to poke around the Windows kernel. It simply runs and unlocks your Windows RT device.

It should be noted that x86 desktop programs can't simply be installed on Windows RT with this hack, they need to be recompiled for the ARM architecture. Nevertheless the hack and jailbreak tool open up possibilities for a homebrew scene of desktop apps -- there are already nine desktop apps available over at XDA. Someone even got an early version of Apple's OS X server running on a Surface RT tablet.

It remains to be seen if Microsoft plans decides to issue a patch for its ARM-based operating system or embrace the homebrew community. Earlier this week the company issued a statement saying it does not consider the findings to be part of a security vulnerability, and applauded the hacker for his ingenuity.




User Comments: 11

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3 people like this | MilwaukeeMike said:

MS has changed their tune in recent years on stuff like this. Years ago they may not have allowed something like this, but when they released the Kinect they purposely didn't encrypt the connection so it could be 'hacked' and used in many different ways. This ended up in a lot more Kinects being sold.

I think they know we want flexible devices and that allowing more freedom makes everyone happy. Locking down your system to force people into buying/using only your products just generates bad press and doesn't seem to help sales.

1 person liked this | treeski treeski said:

I like a lot of what MS has been doing over the past couple years, but not how locked down they are making things. Here's to those who free things up again for us...

1 person liked this | m4a4 m4a4 said:

Again, misleading title. As long as it has an ARM processor, it can never natively run "Desktop Apps". Only apps compiled for ARM...

1 person liked this | psycros psycros said:

Again, misleading title. As long as it has an ARM processor, it can never natively run "Desktop Apps". Only apps compiled for ARM...

Only misleading to those who don't read the article, like yourself.

m4a4 m4a4 said:

Only misleading to those who don't read the article, like yourself.

Nice assumption. And yet I did read the article.

As long as they use the term "desktop apps" with Windows RT news, it WILL be misleading. Should instead be "homemade apps" or something along those lines...

Staff
Jos Jos said:

@m4a4 They are desktop apps that have been ported to the ARM architecture, I don't see why they stop being desktop apps because of that. They're still run in the traditional Windows desktop after all. Also, even if you found the title misleading, the first sentence explicitly says that this is for running ARM-based applications on Windows RT so I don't see where the confusion is coming from.

These are some of the desktop apps that have been tested on Windows RT so far:

Bochs (x86 Emulator)

TightVNC (VNC server and client)

PuTTY (SSH/Rsh/telnet client)

7-Zip (Utility for file archives and disk images)

Notepad++ (text/code editor)

SciTE (Code editor)

IP Messenger (Peer-to-peer chat/file transfer)

CrystalBoy (Nintendo Gameboy emulator)

m4a4 m4a4 said:

Jos, It still is misleading. I knew EXACTLY what it meant (because of the last article), but using the term "desktop app" still makes it sound, at first glance, like you can eventually run desktop apps natively...

And I believe they stop being desktop apps when you can't install them on a desktop PC (because such a version would have been recompiled for ARM).

Eh, maybe it's been a slow day and I am just pointing things out that don't matter all that much...

havok585 havok585 said:

MS has changed their tune in recent years on stuff like this. Years ago they may not have allowed something like this, but when they released the Kinect they purposely didn't encrypt the connection so it could be 'hacked' and used in many different ways. This ended up in a lot more Kinects being sold.

I think they know we want flexible devices and that allowing more freedom makes everyone happy. Locking down your system to force people into buying/using only your products just generates bad press and doesn't seem to help sales.

Go tell that to Apple, before they vanish in the near future.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Go tell that to Apple, before they vanish in the near future.

And that's not a joke. Although it had to do with being cool, not DRM. I was talking to my sister (22 yr old) and her friend about the smartphone industry the other day. They are both Apple users, but said 'It just doesn't seem Apple is that cool anymore, the Surface looks cool'

Then today I saw a story online about teens shifting away from Apple because their parents all love use the same products they do (which is apparently the worst thing, like EVER!) The cool phone for the teens in the story was the S3.

Darth Shiv Darth Shiv said:

Again, misleading title. As long as it has an ARM processor, it can never natively run "Desktop Apps". Only apps compiled for ARM...

Or apps that are JIT'ed...

Darth Shiv Darth Shiv said:

Jos, It still is misleading. I knew EXACTLY what it meant (because of the last article), but using the term "desktop app" still makes it sound, at first glance, like you can eventually run desktop apps natively...

And I believe they stop being desktop apps when you can't install them on a desktop PC (because such a version would have been recompiled for ARM).

Natively is a different story but the x86 emulator is a great step to opening the whole platform to running x86 applications...

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