Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT/Embedded Security

5/24/2018
11:05 AM
Jeffrey Burt
Jeffrey Burt
Jeffrey Burt
50%
50%

IoT Security Concerns Include Pet Trackers, Kaspersky Finds

Kaspersky Lab researchers found BLE and weaknesses in the Android apps running on pet trackers can enable attackers to access user data from the IoT devices.

The tens of billions of connected devices that make up the Internet of Things (IoT) has become a key concern of security researchers, and now that concern includes smart devices made for pets.

In particular, many trackers that are used to monitor the location of pets can be an avenue for cybercriminals to gain access to the pet owners' networks and phones and to such data as a user's password, login, name and email address, authentication tokens and device coordinates, according to Kaspersky Lab researchers.

The vulnerabilities found within the seven pet tracking products tested by Kaspersky is another proof point of the dangers of unsecured devices connecting to networks and the Internet, particularly as the number of such devices -- both consumer and commercial devices -- continues to explode.

The Mirai malware was an example.

Discovered in 2016, the botnet malware launched distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against several websites by taking control of such IoT devices as routers, digital video recorders and security cameras. (See OMG: Mirai Botnet Finds New Life, Again.)

"The growing number of malware targeting IoT devices and related security incidents demonstrates how serious the problem of smart device security is," Roman Unuchek, senior malware analyst at Kaspersky, told Security Now in an email. "The past two years have shown that these threats are not just conceptual but are in fact very real. The Mirai botnet demonstrated that smart devices can be used for cybercriminals to launch powerful attacks. Today, there are billions of these devices globally, and by 2020 this number will grow to 20-50 billion devices, according to predictions by various analysts. The security challenges presented by IoT are significant, exponentially increasing and constantly evolving."

Organizations seem to understand the threats, according to Gartner analysts.

In March, they noted that a survey found that almost 20 percent of organizations saw at least one IoT-based attack at some point over the past three years. In addition, the analysts said that spending on IoT security worldwide will grow from almost $1.2 billion in 2017 to more than $3.1 billion by 2021. Because companies don’t control the software and hardware used in these intelligent connected devices, the focus of spending will be on such tools and services around discovery and asset management, security assessment and penetration testing, they said. (See Increased IoT Use Causing Added Enterprise Security Concerns Report.)

Trouble with BLE
With the pet trackers, Kaspersky researchers found a variety of vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit to gain access to user data. A key technology used by many of the trackers tested was Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), a power-saving Bluetooth connectivity specification that is used in many IoT devices. In a blog post, Unuchek and Kaspersky security expert Roland Sako called BLE "the weak spot in the device's protective armor."

"Unlike 'classic' Bluetooth, where peer devices are connected using a PIN code, BLE is aimed at non-peer devices, one of which may not have a screen or keyboard," Unuchek and Sako wrote. "Thus, PIN code protection is not implemented in BLE -- authentication depends entirely on the developers of the device, and experience shows that it is often neglected."

In addition, the foundation for data transfer between non-peer devices -- in this case, a smartphone on one end and a tracker on the other -- in the BLE spec are services, characteristics and descriptors. Once connected, BLE services are available to the smartphone, and each service contains characteristics that could have descriptors, and both characteristics and descriptors can be used when transferring data.

"Hence, the correct approach to device security in the case of BLE involves pre-authentication before characteristics and descriptors are made available for reading and writing," the two researchers wrote. "Moreover, it is good practice to break the link shortly after connecting if the pre-authentication stage is not passed. In this case, authentication should be based on something secret that is not accessible to the attacker -- for example, the first part of the data can be encrypted with a specific key on the server (rather than the app) side. Or transmitted data and the MAC address of the connected device can be confirmed via additional communication channels, for example, a built-in SIM card."

The level of security varied on the trackers detected, and connectivity wasn't the only weakness found in many of them, the Kaspersky researchers found.

MiM attacks
For some, there were issues with the Android app that was used with the tracker. In some instances, the app logs data -- which includes the user's password, login and authentication token -- that is sent to the server, while in others the app's developers did not disable logging. In one, the app doesn't verify the sever's HTTPS certificate, making it vulnerable to man-in-the-middle (MiM) attacks.

In some trackers there is a lack of authentication, which opens them up to attackers, while in one instance the integrity control was easy to bypass during the updating of the device's firmware.

"It's unclear why certain companies or vendors skip security implementations," Unuchek told Security Now. "In most cases, it should take not much time to add authentication or access control in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) communication. Other security features should be even easier to add. SSL-pinning are very simple features to implement and it can prevent MiM attacks. In addition, disabling logging in the app should take seconds."

When it comes to pet trackers and security, users need to be proactive, he said. They should research different trackers, checking websites and reading reviews to determine how secure the devices and their applications are. Users also should read the privacy policy or terms of service after purchase to see what data is being sent back to the company and how it’s used.

Unuchek also encouraged users to choose strong usernames and passwords that are different from those used for other accounts, to use an alias for the account or when naming the paired device, and to keep the device's apps up to date. (See UNC Researchers Pitch Framework to Fight Password Reuse.)

Related posts:

— Jeffrey Burt is a long-time tech journalist whose work has appeared in such publications as eWEEK, The Next Platform and Channelnomics.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
When It Comes To Security Tools, More Isn't More
Lamont Orange, Chief Information Security Officer at Netskope,  1/11/2021
US Capitol Attack a Wake-up Call for the Integration of Physical & IT Security
Seth Rosenblatt, Contributing Writer,  1/11/2021
IoT Vendor Ubiquiti Suffers Data Breach
Dark Reading Staff 1/11/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
2020: The Year in Security
Download this Tech Digest for a look at the biggest security stories that - so far - have shaped a very strange and stressful year.
Flash Poll
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
COVID-19 has created a new IT paradigm in the enterprise -- and a new level of cybersecurity risk. This report offers a look at how enterprises are assessing and managing cyber-risk under the new normal.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-3166
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-18
An issue was discovered on ASUS DSL-N14U-B1 1.1.2.3_805 devices. An attacker can upload arbitrary file content as a firmware update when the filename Settings_DSL-N14U-B1.trx is used. Once this file is loaded, shutdown measures on a wide range of services are triggered as if it were a real update, r...
CVE-2020-29446
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-18
Affected versions of Atlassian Fisheye & Crucible allow remote attackers to browse local files via an Insecure Direct Object References (IDOR) vulnerability in the WEB-INF directory. The affected versions are before version 4.8.5.
CVE-2020-15864
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-17
An issue was discovered in Quali CloudShell 9.3. An XSS vulnerability in the login page allows an attacker to craft a URL, with a constructor.constructor substring in the username field, that executes a payload when the user visits the /Account/Login page.
CVE-2021-3113
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-17
Netsia SEBA+ through 0.16.1 build 70-e669dcd7 allows remote attackers to discover session cookies via a direct /session/list/allActiveSession request. For example, the attacker can discover the admin's cookie if the admin account happens to be logged in when the allActiveSession request occurs, and ...
CVE-2020-25533
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-15
An issue was discovered in Malwarebytes before 4.0 on macOS. A malicious application was able to perform a privileged action within the Malwarebytes launch daemon. The privileged service improperly validated XPC connections by relying on the PID instead of the audit token. An attacker can construct ...