New School Hacks: Test Setup for Hacking Roku Channels Written in Brightscript

We were recently asked by one of our clients (our day job at IncludeSec is hacking software of all types) to take a look at their Roku channel. For those unfamiliar Roku calls apps for their platform “channels”. We haven’t seen too many Roku channel security reviews and neither has the industry as there isn’t much public information about setting up an environment to conduct a security assessment of a Roku channel.

The purpose of this post was to be a practical guide rather than present any new 0day, but stay tuned to the end of the post for application security tips for Roku channel developers. Additionally we did run this post by the Roku security team and we thank them for taking the time to review our preview.

Roku channels are scripted in Brightscript, a scripting language created specifically for media heavy Roku channels that is very similar syntax wise to our old 90s friend Visual Basic. A sideloaded Roku channel is just a zip file containing primarily Brightscript code, XML documents describing application components, and media assets. These channels operate within a Sandbox similar to Android apps. Due to the architecture of a sandboxed custom scripting language, Roku channels’ access to Roku’s Linux-based operating system, and to other channels on the same Roku device is limited. Channels are encrypted and signed by the developer (on Roku hardware) and distributed through Roku’s infrastructure, so users generally don’t have access to channel packages unlike APKs on Android.

The Brightscript language as well as channel development are well documented by Roku. Roku hardware devices can be put in a developer mode by entering a cheat code sequence which enables sideloading as well as useful features such as a debugger and remote control over the network. You’ll need these features as they’ll be very useful when exploring attacks against Roku channels.

You’ll also want to use the Eclipse Brightscript plugin as it is very helpful when editing or auditing Brightscript code. If you have access to a channel’s source code you can easily import it into Eclipse by creating a new Eclipse project from the existing code, and use the plugin’s project export dialog to re-package the channel and install it to a local Roku device in development mode.

Getting Burp to Work With Brightscript

As with most embedded or mobile type of client applications one of the first things we do when testing a new platform that is interacting with the web is to get HTTP requests running through Burp Suite. It is incredibly helpful in debugging and looking for vulnerabilities to be able to intercept, inspect, modify, and replay HTTP requests to a backend API. Getting a Roku channel working through Burp involves redirecting traffic destined to the backed API to Burp instead, and disabling certificate checking on the client. Note that Roku does support client certificates but this discussion doesn’t involve bypassing those, we’ll focus on bypassing client-side checks of server certificates for channels where the source code is available which is the situation we have with IncludeSec’s clients.

Brightscript code that makes HTTP requests uses Brightscript’s roUrlTransfer object. For example, some code to GET might look like this:

urlTransfer = CreateObject("roUrlTransfer")
urlTransfer.SetUrl("")<br>s = urlTransfer.GetToString()

To setup an easy intercept environment I like to use the create_ap script from to quickly and easily configure hostapd, dnsmasq, and iptables to set up a NAT-ed test network hosted by a Linux machine. There are many ways to perform the man-in-the-middle to redirect requests to Burp, but I’m using a custom hosts file in the dnsmasq configuration to redirect connections to the domains I’m interested in (in this case to my local machine, and an iptables rule to redirect incoming connections on port 443 to Burp’s listening port.

Here’s starting the WIFI AP:

# cat /tmp/test-hosts<br>

And here’s the iptables rule:

# iptables -t nat -A PREROUTING -p tcp --src --dst --dport 443 -j REDIRECT --to-port 8085

In Burp’s Proxy -> Options tab, I’ll add the proxy listener listening on the test network ip on port 8085, configured for invisible proxying mode:

Next, we need to bypass the HTTPS certificate check that will cause the connection to fail. The easiest way to do this is to set EnablePeerVerification to false:

urlTransfer = CreateObject("roUrlTransfer")
s = urlTransfer.GetToString()

Then, re-build the channel and sideload it on to a Roku device in developer mode. Alternatively we can export Burp’s CA certificate, convert it to PEM format, and include that in the modified channel.

This converts the cert from DER to PEM format:

$ openssl x509 -inform der -in burp-cert.der -out burp-cert.pem

The burp-cert.pem file needs to be added to the channel zip file, and the code below changes the certificates file from the internal Roku file to the burp pem file:

urlTransfer = CreateObject("roUrlTransfer")
s = urlTransfer.GetToString()

It’s easy to add the certificate file to the package when exporting and sideloading using the BrightScript Eclipse plugin:

Now the request can be proxied and shows up in Burp’s history:

With that you’re off to the races inspecting and modifying traffic of your Roku channel assessment subject. All of your usual fat client/android app techniques for intercepting and manipulating traffic applies. You can combine that with code review of the BrightScript itself to hunt for interesting security problems and don’t discount privacy problems like unencrypted transport or over collection of data.

For BrightScript developers who may be worried about people using these types of techniques here are our top five tips for coding secure and privacy conscious channels:

  1. Only deploy what you need in a channel, don’t deploy debug/test code.
  2. Consider that confidentiality of the file contents of your deployed channel may not be a given. Don’t hard code secret URLs, tokens, or other security relevant info in your channel or otherwise an attacker will not have access to the client-side code.
  3. Don’t gather/store/send more personal information than is absolutely necessary and expected by your users.
  4. Encrypt all of your network connections to/from your channel and verify certificates. Nothing should ever be in plain text HTTP.
  5. Watch out for 3rd parties. User tracking and other personal data sent to 3rd parties can be come compliance and legal nightmares, avoid this and make your business aware of the possible ramifications if they chose to use 3rd parties for tracking.

Hopefully this post has been useful as a quick start for those interested in exploring the security of Roku channels and Brightscript code. Compared to other similar platforms, Roku is relatively locked down with it’s own scripting language and sandboxing. They also don’t have much user controllable input or a notable client-side attack surface area, but channels on Roku and apps on other platforms generally have to connect to backend web services, so running those connections through Burp is a good starting point to look for security and privacy concerns.

Further research into the Roku platform itself is also on the horizon…perhaps there will be a Part 2 of this post? 🙂

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