Beyond the good ol' LaunchAgents - 13 - Audio Plugins

This is part 13 in the series of “Beyond the good ol' LaunchAgents”, where I try to collect various persistence techniques for macOS. For more background check the introduction.

This is another one of my favorites for some reason. macOS being a popular audio editing device, supports external audio drivers and plugins. @xorrior wrote a very extensive blog post about these at his website, here: Audio Unit Plug-ins. Legitimate Un-signed Code Execution | by Christopher Ross | Posts By SpecterOps Team Members

It is pretty amazing, and I don’t plan to repeat what it’s there but show another way of implementing a plugin. I will briefly describe how to create a Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) Service plug-in.

Apple has a nice documentation as well: Core Audio Overview

HAL plugins are loaded by coreaudiod, which runs as root, and defined at /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ HAL plugins are located at /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/HAL, which means that we require root access to install them.

We can easily create such a plugin with Xcode, by creating a new project, and selecting the type as bundle. For the bundle extension we need to provide .driver. Once the project is created we need to add a new source file.

#import <Foundation/Foundation.h>

__attribute__((constructor)) static void run()
    NSLog(@"%@", @"Hello from MasterAudio");

We can implement a simple constructor which will be loaded when the driver is loaded. We don’t really need to do anything else. This will work just fine, and won’t crash coreaudiod.

In the Info.plist we also need to add some UUID, and default function name, but we don’t need to implement it.


Next we can simply compile it and place it in /Library/Audio/Plug-Ins/HAL. We will need to set folder ownership to root:wheel.

We can then go and restart coreaudiod.

csaby@dev ~ % sudo launchctl stop 
csaby@dev ~ % sudo launchctl start

Now we can query the logs.

csaby@dev ~ % log show --predicate 'eventMessage contains[c] "MasterAudio"' --last 20m
Filtering the log data using "composedMessage CONTAINS[c] "MasterAudio""
Skipping info and debug messages, pass --info and/or --debug to include.
Timestamp                       Thread     Type        Activity             PID    TTL  
2021-04-19 22:39:55.144111+0200 0x18e2     Default     0x0                  586    0    coreaudiod: (MasterAudio) Hello from MasterAudio

As we can see our driver was loaded, and it will run as root.

This was just one option, Chris’s blog (linked above) details a few more.