Reverse Engineering Samsung S6 Modem

So I was a little late to the game, and just got my hands on a Samsung Galaxy S6, specifically the SM-G920F which will be the topic of discussion in this post. I am quite curious as to understanding the structure of the device’s modem.bin file. While I haven’t been able to get a de-obfuscated/decrypted version of modem.bin yet, hopefully this post will help others quickly get up-to-speed and assist in the pursuit of one.

Obtaining Files

Extracting Files

I had some issues using UnZip 5.52 on OS X (PK compat. error), so instead I used UnZip 6.00 on Ubuntu 15.04.

unzip <>
mv <firmware.tar.md5> <firmware.tar>
tar xvf <firmware.tar>

You should end up with something like:


Deconstructing modem.bin

Endianness: Most of what we will be seeing in modem.bin is comprised of Little-Endian format. That is, the Most Significant Byte is located at the highest memory address. Example: If you look at SIZE of BOOT below, the bytes are ordered as 48 2B 00 00 but read and sent as 0x2B48 dropping the 00s as you would in decimal for anything before a non-zero number.

TOC[0] = TOC

Opening modem.bin in a Hex Editor gives some immediate insight into what is happening with this file.

The first 0x200 bytes are called the TOC, I am going to make a slightly ambitious guess that this stands for Table of Contents. Its function is to provide information about the file itself including all [5] of its sections, namely: TOC, BOOT, MAIN, NV and OFFSET, as well as providing an index into these sections.


While the above screen shot shows only addresses 0000h-0090h the remaining bytes are all zero-padded 0x200 bytes in total.


If you want to isolate the BOOT section of the file you would do so by calculating the offsets based on the SIZE parameter from the header file. So for our example it would look like the following:

dd if=modem.bin bs=1 skip=512 count=11080 of=modem.bin_boot

# calculated by using the 0x200 byte offset in decimal.
# calculated by using the 0x2B48 byte SIZE of BOOT in decimal.

Address Bytes Length Description Value
0020-002C 42 4F 4F 54 12 Bytes NAME of Section BOOT
002C-0030 00 02 00 00 4 Bytes Unknown  
0030-0034 00 00 00 00 4 Bytes Unknown  
0034-0038 48 2B 00 00 4 Bytes SIZE of BOOT 0x2B48 bytes
0038-003C 45 03 27 5E 4 Bytes CRC of BOOT 0x5E270345
003C-0040 00 00 00 00 4 Bytes INDEX Index into TOC


Similar to BOOT you would isolate MAIN with the following dd command:

dd if=modem.bin bs=1 skip=11592 count=40394816 of=modem.bin_main


Address Bytes Length Description Value
0040 - 004C 4D 41 49 4E 12 Bytes NAME of Section MAIN
004C - 0050 60 2D 00 00 4 Bytes VERSION* 0x2D60 1.16.16
0050 - 0054 00 00 00 40 4 Bytes Unknown  
0054 - 0058 40 60 68 02 4 Bytes SIZE of MAIN 0x2686040 or 40,394,816 bytes or ~40MB
0058 - 005C 24 BD DF 93 4 Bytes CRC of MAIN 0x93DFBD24
005C - 0060 02 00 00 00 4 Bytes INDEX Has to do with index into TOC

* - VERSION is a guess based on analyzing multiple firmwares, seen both 0x2D00 and 0x2D60. Will confirm, should be able to reverse cbd prepare_boot_args or related functions to ensure the above is correct.

TOC[3] = NV

Address Bytes Length Description Value
0060 - 006C 4E 56 00 00 12 Bytes NAME of Section NV
006C - 0070 00 00 00 00 4 Bytes Unknown  
0070 - 0074 00 00 EE 47 4 Bytes Unknown  
0074 - 0078 00 00 10 00 4 Bytes SIZE of NV 0x2B48 bytes
0078 - 007C 00 00 00 00 4 Bytes CRC of NV N/A
007C - 0080 03 00 00 00 4 Bytes INDEX Has to do with index into TOC


I have never seen cbd process or send this section, so I’m assuming its use is local to the modem.bin file and not to the CP. Perhaps the BOOT is using it in some way?

Decoding BOOT

So you may have noticed some patterns while looking at the BOOT code, in our example located from 0200-02D48h and in case you didn’t I’m going to show you a trick I learned from the Practical Reverse Engineering book by Dang et al. As they so correctly state:

The ability to recognize instruction boundaries in a seemingly random blob of data is important. Maybe you will appreciate it later.

Also, say Dang et al. out loud. Ha!

Let’s review a chunk of BOOT:

TL;DR - These are ARM instructions and we’re about to disassemble the sh*t out of them.

Looking at this blob, it’s easy to notice a pattern. Almost every 4th byte ends in 0xE* - as it turns out, ARM branch instructions use the Most Significant Bits for a conditional code. These codes control the execution of instructions and are typically based on the flags set in the Application Program Status Registers or APSR. So if you want to tell an instruction to Always Execute, you would use the AL condition which is 1110b or 0xE. If you have any experience with crackmes this is analogous to switching the Z or Zero Flag when you wanted to alter the state of a conditional JMP (x86) or B (ARM).

TODO: Reversing BOOT will be part of a later post.

CP Boot Process

The following is what I know based on crashing the modem many times, reversing cbd and BOOT

cbd	 # CP Boot Daemon lives in /sbin on the device
CP 	 # Cell Processor or Modem
AP	 # Application Processor, where Android OS lives
BOOT	 # BOOT section of the modem.bin


Opened by rild used for most I/O involving CP boot chain.

	IOCTL_MODEM_DL_START	 # Starts `mem_start_download`
	IOCTL_MODEM_SET_TX_LINK	 # Sets Boot Link / Main Link
	IOCTL_MODEM_FW_UPDATE	 # Called after stages are sent to CP
	IOCTL_MODEM_BOOT_OFF	 # Sent after Stage 3 is sent to CP
	IOCTL_MODEM_BOOT_DONE	 # Final IOCTL for CP boot chain







Triggered by IOCTL_MODEM_DL_START which grabs the BOOT section of modem.bin and sends it to the CP to start the boot code. The code appears to come from link_device_bootdump.c in the Android kernel.

magic == 0x424F4F54 or BOOT


Sends parsed modem.bin to CP RAM via BOOT code. I’m thinking the CMD= are private IOCTL command IDs.

Stage 1: 0x200 bytes header

Stage 2: 0x2686040 bytes MAIN

Checks CRC for MAIN

I’m guessing it sends the MAIN CRC to the BOOT code to verify

Stage 3: 0x100000 bytes of NVRAM


Set to /sdcard/log/ annoyingly the SM-G920F does not have an SD CARD slot so uses a shitty Virtual SD daemon that does not appear to work correctly because I can not get anything saved into the directory. Will work on a way to set this, should be fairly simple.


I’m not sure why cbd calls these functions, but called before std_dl_send_bin

Service Mode Functions

There are many service mode functions that Samsung kindly provides that will help during reversing.

# Enable CP Debugging
am broadcast -a android.provider.Telephony.SECRET_CODE -d android_secret_code://66336

<device resets>

am broadcast -a android.provider.Telephony.SECRET_CODE -d android_secret_code://9090

<device resets>

am broadcast -a android.provider.Telephony.SECRET_CODE -d android_secret_code://CP_RAMDUMP

# SysDump, Copy to SD Card
am broadcast -a android.provider.Telephony.SECRET_CODE -d android_secret_code://9900

Working on writing up my notes on reversing CP Boot Daemon and BOOT, hopefully will post soon. I still need to figure out how to organize this damn thing. Hopefully this helps those interested jump-start their research, and feel free to reach out via Twitter.