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3/21/2017
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New Metasploit Extension Available for Testing IoT Device Security

RFTransceiver extension for the Metasploit Hardware Bridge API will let organizations detect and scan wireless devices operating outside 802.11 spec.

Enterprise security teams and penetration testers now have a new tool for evaluating the risks posed to their networks from Internet of Things (IoT) devices that are operating on radio frequencies outside the standard 802.11 specification.

Rapid7, the owner of the Metasplot Project, has released an extension to its recently introduced Hardware Bridge API for conducting pen tests on network-connected hardware.

The new RFTransceiver extension for the Metasploit Hardware Bridge is designed to let organizations identify and assess the security state of multi-frequency wireless devices operating on their networks more effectively than current tools permit.

The RFTransceiver gives security pros the ability to craft and monitor different RF packets for identifying and accessing a company’s wireless systems beyond Ethernet-accessible technologies, said Craig Smith, a research lead at Rapid7 in a blog post.

It allows pen testers to create and direct “short bursts of interference” at such devices to see how they respond from a security standpoint.

Many organizations already have devices and systems operating on radio frequencies outside 802.11 on their networks. Examples include RFID readers, smart lighting systems using the Zigbee communication protocol and network-enabled alarm, surveillance, and door control systems.

The RFTransceiver extension is designed to help organizations with such devices answer vital questions, such as the operating range of the devices, whether they are encrypted, how they respond to outside interference, and how they fail.

“The most obvious threat is the unauthorized access to the information that those devices have access to,” says Tod Beardsley, director of research at Rapid7, in comments to Dark Reading.

A smart lighting system, for instance, may have both a custom RF component and a traditional WiFi component, and therefore may be subverted by an attacker on the RF side to get access to the WiFi side, he says.

“In addition, many RF-enabled devices fail to serialize or otherwise make sure that each request and response is unique,” Beardsley says. This makes them vulnerable to issues like replay attacks where an attacker records a command sent out over RF and then plays it back. “When the device controls a physical lock, that’s bad news,” he says.

With organizations expected to connect a constantly growing range of wireless IoT devices to the network over the next few years, RF testing capabilities have become vital.

“It’s an area of focus that is still pretty specialized, so the idea was that if we could package this up in a familiar Metasploit context, we could bring more researchers into the world of RF assessments,” Beardsley says.

With so many pen testers and security professionals already familiar with Metasploit, the learning curve for using tools like the new extension is considerably flattened as well, he says.

John Kronick, a director at cloud services company Stratiform, says there are a few products currently available that are designed to sniff out IoT devices operating at different frequencies.

As one example, he pointed to Bastille, a company that sells products to help organizations sense RF devices on the network, to identify them and accurately determine the location of such devices on the network. Bastille touts its technology as being capable of identifying devices operating on frequencies ranging from 60MHz to 6GHz.

“Adding another tool that has penetration testing capabilities would be a huge boost to the security practitioner’s arsenal,” Kronick says.

The new extension further broadens the use cases for Metasploit, a tool that vulnerability researchers and penetration testers have long used to probe for software flaws, to execute exploits and simulate attacks.

The Hardware Bridge API that Rapid7 announced last month made Metasploit the first general-purpose pen-testing tool that can also be used to test for vulnerabilities in hardware and physical devices.

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Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

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