Windows RT hacked to run unsigned desktop apps

A hacker says he's tweaked code in Windows RT so the tablet-based OS can run unsigned desktop apps, though there are limitations.

Microsoft's current Windows RT-based Surface tablet.

Microsoft's current Windows RT-based Surface tablet.

(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

Microsoft's Windows RT can apparently run unsigned desktops app with a little bit of hacking.

In a blog posted yesterday, a hacker dubbed clrokr described how he was able to change a value in the Windows RT kernel to bypass certain restrictions set up by Microsoft. The blog details how clrokr tracked down the right value to open up the types of apps that RT can run. And it includes his code for other enterprising hackers.

The specific value can't be permanently altered on devices enabled with Secure Boot, but it can be changed in memory. As a result, the value would have to be tweaked each time a PC boots up.

Savvy programmers might be able to duplicate clrokr's steps and code to hack their own devices. However, your average RT tablet owner would be in the dark.

Desktop applications designed for x86-based PCs would also have to be recompiled to run on RT devices with ARM processors. So RT users wouldn't be able to run their existing desktop apps out of the box.

In his quest to tweak RT, clrokr did discover that the RT version of Windows 8 isn't all that different from the full version.

Windows RT is a clean port of Windows 8. They are the same thing and [Microsoft] enforces Code Integrity to artificially separate these platforms. It does not stop pirates from modifying store apps (and their license checks) because store apps are the only things that can actually run unsigned. The fact that this method works on Windows 8 as well shows how similar the systems are.

CNET contacted Microsoft for comment and will update they story if we receive any information.

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