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January 08, 2013

Windows RT Hacked to Run Third-Party Apps

While at first glance Windows RT might appear to be a limited version of the popular operating system, one clever person has managed to be able to modify it to run third-party applications.

With a lot of ingenuity and a little bit of code, a hacker using the name Clrokr was able to jailbreak Windows RT. Windows RT is a special version of Windows designed for ARM (News - Alert)-based tablets. Ordinarily, Windows RT only ran Windows applications created by Microsoft (News - Alert), including a special version of Office for touchscreens.

This hack takes advantage of the way the Windows kernel authorizes programs to run. The levels range from zero for unauthenticated to 12 for Windows. Windows RT is hard-coded to run applications at level eight to run applications from Microsoft.

It is possible for a user to modify the system files that handle the authorization, but Secure Boot will detect the changes when Windows RT is booted.

Clrokr managed to find the location in memory where this setting was stored, and by trial and error developed some low-level code using the Windows RT remote debugger that changes the authentication setting to allow apps created by third-party developers.

Windows RT users should not think this is a practical solution. First, the hack needs to be reapplied every time the system is booted. Second, even after Windows RT is jailbroken, it will only run Windows applications that are compiled for ARM. Developers could compile apps for Windows on ARM; there are already instances of PuTTY, an SSH client, and TightVNC that have been compiled in the wake of the jailbreak.

“It is a little bit ironic that Microsoft engineers slaved over Windows RT to make it a perfect port of x86 Windows, and yet the Microsoft bigwigs decided to artificially lock the operating system down. Again, the only thing preventing Windows RT from running third-party desktop apps is that single digit setting,” Sebastian Anthony wrote in Extreme Tech.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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