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Internet Of Things Hacking Village Debuts At DEF CON

Apple network storage, Fitbit, a fridge, blood pressure monitor and a HappyCow toy are all fair game in the IoT hacking Village network.

Some of the hottest attractions at the DEF CON hacker conference every year are the themed hacking villages, which are basically hands-on hacking labs, workshops, contests, and conferences within the conference, focused on a specific technology or topic. There's Lockpick Village, for instance, a mainstay at DEF CON for fledgling or experienced lock-pickers, as well as villages in Crypto and Privacy, Social Engineering, Wireless, and most recently, the Industrial Control Systems (ICS) Village that debuted last year.

Now the Internet of Things joins the menu of DEF CON Villages. The new Internet of Things (IoT) Village opens next month during DEF CON 23 in Las Vegas and will include a hacking contest of consumer and office equipment and medical devices, including ASUS and Zyxel home routers; Netgear and Forscam security cameras; a Samsung baby monitor; a Blipcare WiFi Blood Pressure Monitor; Fitbit Araia WiFi Smart scale; a ZKSoftware time clock; Apple Time Capsule Network Storage; Chamberlain garage-door opener; electronic locks from LockState and Hysoon; a Samsung refrigerator; and a toy, the o-spy HappyCow Tank and its camera.

Ted Harrington, a lead organizer of IoT Village and executive partner at Independent Security Evaluators (ISE), says the goal is to help promote more securely built networked consumer devices. "We're going to try to address head-on the looming challenges that are going to arrive with connected devices. One of the things we're constantly seeing is functionality absolutely being considered first, and security implications not being considered at all," Harrington says.

IoT Village evolved out of the so-called SOHOplessly Broken router-hacking contest held at DEF CON 22 last year, which exposed some 15 zero-day flaws in consumer router devices.

"The addition of a dedicated IoT Village just goes to show that there is an increased interest in this area. I'm looking forward to visiting and I hope it includes some hardware hacking as well," says Runa Sandvik, a privacy and security researcher.

Sandvik and security expert Michael Auger next month at Black Hat USA in Las Vegas will reveal their findings of security and privacy vulnerabilities in an interesting and unusual IoT thing: a long-range, precision-guided rifle from TrackingPoint. The rifle has a Linux-based scope as well as a connected trigger mechanism, and comes with its own mobile apps for downloading videos, and for providing information to the firearm such as weather information.

Why hack networked rifles? "It seemed like a crazy and fun project concerning a new piece of technology -- the combination of a firearm [and] a computer and network connectivity is not something that has been available to regular consumers before," says Sandvik, who declined to share details about their findings just yet.

[Public safety may finally force Internet of Things manufacturers to start taking security seriously. Read Internet Of Things Security Reaches Tipping Point.]

Meanwhile, the IoT security problem may be more glaring than with other networked devices, but the theme is similar. "In some ways, it's a new challenge and in some ways, it's the same challenge in all systems" that don't have security built in by design, ISE's Harrington says.

The good news for now, however, is that most of the security flaws discovered thus far in IoT devices have mostly a minimal impact overall, security experts say -- for now, anyway.

Harrington says he and the IoT Village team hope to add a networked television to the mix as well.

Among the workshop topics planned so far is "Pwning IoT via Hardware Attacks," showing how physical access allows an attacker to root a device: "The implications are significant for anyone who obtains physical access to a connected device and can then later attack the network it is attached to; for example, a malicious hotel guest could tamper with such a vulnerable connected device and then remotely victimize all future guests," says security researcher Chase Schultz, who will host that session.

DEF CON's IoT Village, which also includes a capture-the-flag and zero-day discovery contest, runs from August 6-9 at DEF CON. This year's conference also will feature new villages dedicated to car hacking and bio hacking (think genetic engineering and human "augmentation"). 

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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