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2/13/2017
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New Bug Bounty Program Targets IoT Security

GeekPwn bug bounty program aims to collect Internet of Things security vulnerabilities, and highlight mistakes to vendors.

The Internet of Things, like all new tech, drives security risk. Similar to the PC in its early stages, IoT faces two security challenges: large amounts of vulnerabilities, and major consequences.

"As an emerging technology, IoT is far from the maturity stage," explain security researchers Huiming Liu and Yuhao Song, both with GeekPwn Lab. "The development of security always lags behind the corresponding industry."

Vendors working on product development tend to place more emphasis on improving usability and user experience, and less on security. There is a lack of security sense, the researchers say; most vulnerabilities are obvious and can be easily avoided.

This is a key takeaway from the GeekPwn Contest, a security contest focused on IoT devices and other smart devices.

The duo founded GeekPwn in 2014 to broaden white hats' research efforts to include IoT and help vendors strengthen product security. There are many contests and bug bounty programs focused on software security, they noticed, but nearly none geared towards IoT.

Since launching the contest, the team has collected more than 100 security vulnerabilities and exploit techniques for IoT products including smart home devices, wearables, routers, cameras, network protocols, and smart entertainment products. All were reported to their respective vendors following the contest.

They found IoT vendors, especially smaller businesses, are challenged to address the problems.

"When we collect vulnerabilities in GeekPwn and submit them to the vendors, some of the vendors don't have a process of vulnerability response, some reject and deny any vulnerabilities, some even regard vulnerabilities as infringement of their reputation and threaten court against us," the team says.

This issue has improved over time as vendors accept the responsibility of improving product security. After three years of GeekPwn, more are agreeing to "responsible disclosure" and welcome white hats' efforts to hunt flaws in their products.

The two acknowledge additional challenges companies face with IoT security including a small talent pool and lack of systemic guidelines, solutions, and standards related to this new wave of technology.

Both Liu and Song will be at Black Hat Asia 2017 to discuss design misconceptions and implementation mistakes that developers may overlook in IoT devices. Their briefing is entitled "Daily-Life Peeper: Bug Hunting and Exploit Techniques in IoT."

GeekPwn collected 32 router vulnerabilities. In their session, the duo will expand on one that exploits three vulnerabilities as a chain.

They also plan to discuss attack vectors and most vulnerable modules of IoT devices based on data collected in GeekPwn, and consequences these vulnerabilities could cause. Their idea is to help security researchers kick off their IoT security research.

"Based on our study and analysis, the current situation of IoT security is nearly catastrophic," the team states.

Businesses' lack of attention to IoT, implementation errors, and design flaws could have severe consequences and lead to damage to property or personal safety. Researchers cite last year's massive DDoS attack, which took down several major websites, as an example.

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Kelly Sheridan is Associate Editor at Dark Reading. She started her career in business tech journalism at Insurance & Technology and most recently reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft and business IT. Sheridan earned her BA at Villanova University. View Full Bio

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