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Hector Martin edited this page Jun 2, 2022 · 24 revisions

Apple Silicon devices seem to follow a boot flow very similar to modern iOS devices.

Stage 0 (SecureROM)

This stage is located in the boot ROM. Among others, it verifies, loads and executes normal stage 1 from NOR. If this fails, it falls back to DFU and wait for an iBSS loader to be sent, before continuing with the DFU flow at stage 1.

Normal flow

Stage 1 (LLB/iBoot1)

This stage is the primary early loader, located in the on-board NOR. This boot stage very roughly goes as follows:

  • Read the boot-volume variable from NVRAM: its format is <gpt-partition-type-uuid>:<gpt-partition-uuid>:<volume-group-uuid>. Other related variables seem to be update-volume and upgrade-boot-volume, possibly selected by metadata inside the boot-info-payload variable;

  • Get the local policy hash:

    • First try the local proposed hash (SEP command 11);
    • If that is not available, get the local blessed hash (SEP command 14)
  • Read the local boot policy, located on the iSCPreboot partition at /<volume-group-uuid>/LocalPolicy/<policy-hash>.img4. This boot policy has the following specific metadata keys:

    • vuid: UUID: Volume group UUID - same as above
    • kuid: UUID: KEK group UUID
    • lpnh: SHA384: Local policy nonce hash
    • rpnh: SHA384: Remote policy nonce hash
    • nsih: SHA384: Next-stage IMG4 hash
    • coih: SHA384: fuOS (custom kernelcache) IMG4 hash
    • auxp: SHA384: Auxiliary user-authorized kernel extensions hash
    • auxi: SHA384: Auxiliary kernel cache IMG4 hash
    • auxr: SHA384: Auxiliary kernel extension recept hash
    • prot: SHA384: Paired Recovery manifest hash
    • lobo: bool: Local boot policy
    • smb0: bool: Reduced security enabled
    • smb1: bool: Permissive security enabled
    • smb2: bool: Third-party kernel extensions enabled
    • smb3: bool: Manual mobile device management (MDM) enrollment
    • smb4: bool?: MDM device enrollment program disabled
    • sip0: u16: SIP customized
    • sip1: bool: Signed system volume (csrutil authenticated-boot) disabled
    • sip2: bool: CTRR (configurable text region read-only) disabled
    • sip3: bool: boot-args filtering disabled

    And optionally the following linked manifests, each located at /<volume-group-uuid>/LocalPolicy/<policy-hash>.<id>.im4m

    • auxk: AuxKC (third party kext) manifest
    • fuos: fuOS (custom kernelcache) manifest
  • If loading the next stage:

    • The boot directory is located at the target partition Preboot subvolume, at path /<volume-uuid>/boot/<local-policy.metadata.nsih>;
    • Decrypt, verify and execute <boot-dir>/usr/standalone/firmware/iBoot.img4 with the device tree and other firmware files in the same directory. No evidence towards other metadata descriptors yet.
  • If loading a custom stage (fuOS):

    • ...

If it fails at any point during this, it will either error out or fall back to DFU, waiting for an iBEC loader to be sent, before continuing with the DFU flow at stage 2.

Stage 2 (iBoot2)

This stage is the OS-level loader, located inside the OS partition and shipped as part of macOS. It loads the rest of the system.

DFU flow

Stage 1 (iBSS)

This stage is sent to the device by the "reviving" host. It bootstraps, verifies and runs the second stage, iBEC.

Stage 2 (iBEC)


Once booted, the AP can be in one of several boot modes, as confirmed by the SEP:

ID Name
0 macOS
1 1TR ("one true" recoveryOS)
2 recoveryOS ("ordinary" recoveryOS)
3 kcOS
4 restoreOS
255 unknown

The SEP only allows execution of certain commands (such as editing the boot policy) in 1TR, or it will fail with error 11, "AP boot mode".

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