SMM Callouts via Notify

I was recently working on assessing a product’s UEFI firmware and I learned something new that didn’t seem well documented on the internet.

Many times, when a Software SMI Handler (SwSmiHandler) is registered in an SMM module, the function SmmRegisterProtocolNotify is also called, which registers a function to a Protocol GUID. efiXplorer labeled the registered function as a SmiHandler, but I wanted to find out if functions registered with SmmRegisterProtocolNotify are called when the swSmiHandler is called. With some help from @vincentzimmer I was able to trace through the EDK2 source code to pin point how the functions in question are invoked.

For reference, this is what a normal SwSmiHandler registration looks like (in Ghidra, with efiSeek):

local_18 = 0x35;
local_10a8 = (*EFI_SMM_SW_DISPATCH2_PROTOCOL4->Register)
                        (EFI_SMM_SW_DISPATCH2_PROTOCOL4,swSmiHandler8,local_18,&local_10b0) ;

In the above example, swSmiHandler8 is the function invoked in SMM when 0x35 is passed as the second operand to the out instruction (where 0xb2 is the first operand). When this instruction is executed with these operands, the CPU transitions to System Management Mode (SMM) and then executes swSmiHandler8 in SMM.

The SmmRegisterProtocolNotify function is defined here.

The function is registered to a ProtocolNotify object as a function pointer for its Function property here

So where is this Function property function pointer invoked? The actual invocation occurs within SmmNotifyProtocol, but if we trace through the call graph a bit we see the SmmNotifyProtocol function is called here.

This is within the SmmInstallProtocolInterfaceNotify. The SmmInstallProtocolInterfaceNotify function is then called here within the SmmInstallProtocolInterface.

Since SmmInstallProtocolInterface has the EFIAPI qualifier, it is part of the public EFI API that is exposed to and used within modules.

When SmmInstallProtocolInterface is called within an SMM Module, the Function registered with SmmRegisterProtocolNotify the Function is called in SMM mode. There is no context switch.

This becomes interesting when two criteria are met:

1) When SmmInstallProtocolInterface is called within a normally registered SwSmiHandler that can be triggered by writing a byte to Port IO via out(0xb2, $BYTE).

2) When the Function registered makes calls to BootServices or RuntimeServices (from the System Table - not the SMST).

In the case where these two conditions are met, an SMM Callout vulnerability can occur. Note that these two conditions are global to the UEFI image and may be met in different modules.

This is what a typical SmmRegisterProtocolNotify looks like:


notify_6ea0f71c is the function that is called when SmmInstallProtocolInterface is called with the EFI_EMUL6064TRAP_PROTOCOL_GUID parameter argument. This generally looks like this:


When you see SmmInstallProtocolInterface within an SwSmiHandler and if notify_6ea0f71c has references to gBS or gRS (but not the SMM Runtime Services!) then there may be SMM Callout Vulnerabilities!

Thanks to @vincentzimmer and @hackingthings for answering questions and otherwise just generally being helpful.

Additionally, it seems efiXplorer recently added support for this feature! See

See these advisories for actual examples of this type of bug:

I apologize to @matrosov for forgetting to include his work on the original edition of this blog. It was an honest mistake. @matrosov was kind enough to answer questions for me as well.