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IoT
11/8/2019
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Ring Flaw Underscores Impact of IoT Vulnerabilities

A vulnerability in Amazon's Ring doorbell cameras would have allowed a local attacker to gain access to a target's entire wireless network.

A vulnerability in Amazon’s Ring Video Doorbell Pro IoT device could have allowed a nearby attacker to imitate a disconnected device and then sniff the credentials of the wireless networks when the owner reconfigured the device, according to a report issued by security firm Bitdefender.

The issue, which was fixed by Amazon in September, underscores the impact of a single insecure Internet-of-Things device on the organization in which it is deployed. While the vulnerability may only occur in a single network device, the result of the flaw could be leaked information — the wireless network password, for example — which  would have far more serious repercussions.

"IoT is a security disaster, any way you look at it," says Alexandru Balan, Bitdefender's chief security researcher. "Security is not the strong suit of IoT vendors — only rarely, do we see vendors who take security seriously."

The discovery of a serious vulnerability in a popular IoT product comes as businesses and consumers increasingly worry about the impact that such devices may have on their own security. Only about half of security teams have a response plan in place to deal with attacks on connected devices, according to recent report from Neustar. Even critical-infrastructure firms, such as utilities that have to deal with connected operational technology, a widespread class of Internet-of-Things devices, are ill-prepared to deal with vulnerabilities and attacks, the report says.

Vulnerabilities in IoT devices can have serious repercussions. In July, a team of researchers found widespread flaws in the networking software deployed in as many as 200 million embedded devices and found millions more that could be impacted by a variant of the issue in other real-time operating systems.

The issue with Amazon Ring is not as serious but it is a reminder that vulnerabilities can still be easily found in the devices by attackers paying attention, says Balan"We tend to look at the popular devices, and those tend to have better security than the less popular devices," 

The rest of the Ring device's communications are encrypted and secure, according to Bitdefender. The mobile application only communicates with the device through the cloud, even if the app and device are already on the same network, the company's analysis stated. Cloud communications are conducted over encrypted connections to API services using Transport Layer Security (TLS) and certificated pinning. 

The device's initial connection with the local network is the only time that it sends data without encryption, Balan says. "This is a proximity based attack, so its not that big of a threat on a global scale. You need to be with a hundred meters or so to issue the deauthentication packets and force the user to reset the password."

The existence of the vulnerability is not an indicator of the commitment of Ring's security team, Balan adds, noting that within a few days Amazon responded and two months later closed out the report. By September, the company issued a patch — within three months after the initial communication, according to Bitdefender's disclosure timeline. As of November, all affected devices had been patched, which Balan says is a better outcome then the majority of disclosures that Bitdefender works on with other IoT vendors.

"Amazon is one of the few that take security seriously," he says. "Inherently everything has some flaw that will be discovered. The only challenge with IoT is whether you take that disclosure seriously."

The trend that more vulnerabilities are being discovered in popular products is a sign that the manufacturers are paying attention and responding to researchers, Balan observes. "If someone does not have vulnerabilities disclosed in their product, then that is likely the most risky product, from a security perspective. If the vulnerabilities were discovered, then props to them — that's a good thing."

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Check out The Edge, Dark Reading's new section for features, threat data, and in-depth perspectives. Today's top story: "What a Security Products Blacklist Means for End Users and Integrators."

Veteran technology journalist of more than 20 years. Former research engineer. Written for more than two dozen publications, including CNET News.com, Dark Reading, MIT's Technology Review, Popular Science, and Wired News. Five awards for journalism, including Best Deadline ... View Full Bio

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