BlackBerry says it’s virtualised macOS for M1 on an x86 CPU

Tweaking QEMU to handle Apple’s XNU kernel was just the beginning

BlackBerry’s Cylance unit claims it has virtualised macOS Big Sur for Apple’s own Arm-powered M1 silicon on an Intel x86 processor.

The explanation of how to get the job done is not for the faint-hearted. For starters you’ll need Big Sur installer package and a tool called OSX-KVM to retrieve it. However, BlackBerry warns the tool can be flaky, so has provided the necessary files at the somewhat controversial file locker.

Suffice to say you’ll need to extract plenty of stuff from the Big Sur installer, get some of it running on a Mac or in a macOS VM (and those aren’t easy to make).

Then you’ll need a custom cut of the QEMU emulator that supports Apple’s XNU kernel. That’s available here.

And then you’ll need to pay close attention because BlackBerry’s post runs for over 7,000 words – including lots of code to cut and paste - and points out that getting the Arm version of macOS working on x86 is decidedly non-trivial.

Why bother? The post says security researchers need access as many platforms as possible so they can work in safety and protect emerging systems.

“Pen-testers and researchers can use the virtualized environment of a stripped-down MacOS kernel for debugging and vulnerability discovery,” the post states, “and this illustrates the extent to which one can use emulation to manipulate and control the kernel to their desired ends, whether it be to find a critical bug or to patch an area of the kernel.”

If you get this running, feel free to let us know and send screenshots. ®

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