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
6/15/2021
05:05 PM
50%
50%

Security Experts Scrutinize Apple, Amazon IoT Networks

Both companies have done their due diligence in creating connected-device networks, but the pervasiveness of the devices worries some security researchers.

Apple and Amazon, two of the largest makers of connected devices, now have operational low-power communications networks that piggyback on their devices to power a variety of services. But security experts are scrutinizing whether the transfer of simple messages expands their devices' attack surface.

Last week, Amazon announced that its Sidewalk connected-device network became active. Originally announced in 2019, the network uses the bandwidth of Amazon gateway devices, such as Ring cameras, or Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices. For its part, Apple announced its AirTag tracking devices in May, which use its Find My network that sends messages by utilizing bandwidth of nearby Apple devices.

Related Content:

Researchers Create Covert Channel Over Apple AirTag Network

Special Report: Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises

New From The Edge: How President Biden Can Better Defend the US From Russian Hacks

The networks — and the parasitic bandwidth-sharing — raise questions about how easily such technology could be abused, says Johannes Ullrich, dean of research for SANS Technology Institute. Hackers will find ways to send data over the network, even though Amazon is limiting the total bandwidth for a particular gateway to 80 Kbps.

"It's about sharing data and bandwidth — random people are able to use your device, but you are also able to use their device," he says. "As far as risks go, you don't know who actually uses your device or what they are using it for. You have no control over who is using your device or how they are using it."

Concerns over the two device makers' pervasive networks underscore that security will be a major part of the future considerations for the technology. While Apple has operated its Find My network for years, the recent addition of the AirTags connected trackers has renewed scrutiny. Apple's Find My network has already been co-opted to send attacker-crafted messages and as a covert channel for sending data. Although user data has not been compromised, the company has discussed some of its defenses to make the network privacy-friendly and recently announced it will open up the Find My network to approved partners. Amazon has promised the same with its Sidewalk network. 

In many ways, especially for the user whose device is sending data, the risks are no greater than when they are sending data using an Internet service provider, Ullrich says. 

"Once your data leaves your device, you have no control over how it is routed across the Internet," he says. "And sharing networks, everything is encrypted by default. There is no unencrypted option for these networks."

Risks, however, do exist. 

To prevent denial-of-service attacks, communications traffic may be parsed to verify that it is valid traffic. Any time a device peers at data input from an untrusted user, security could be attacked, says SANS's Ullrich. 

"You are basically accepting these messages from random users, and the question is, how good is the implementation?" he says. "Amazon Sidewalk has to parse the message and make sure it is a valid message, so there could be code execution attacks if a vulnerability is found." 

In a brief analysis posted to the SANS blog, Ullrich recommends that users opt out of Amazon Sidewalk until security researchers have had a reasonable time to look at the company's implementation.

Amazon has published a security whitepaper outlining the steps the company has taken to secure its technology, including three layers of encryption and trusted identities for devices. 

"As a crowdsourced, community benefit, Amazon Sidewalk is only as powerful as the trust our customers place in us to safeguard customer data," the company stated. "To that end, this document outlines the steps we have taken to secure the network and maintain customer privacy."

Apple has also committed to the privacy of its users and says its Find My network is totally anonymous.

Despite the due diligence that Amazon and Apple have conducted, consumers would be better served if the specifications for the companies' pervasive networks were opened up to the community, says SANS's Ullrich. At this point, the Amazon documentation is vague, with few details on how the protocol really works, he says.

"It is really asking for a standard," he says. "Why do we need to have multiple networks? The whole open source idea, where I can inspect the actual protocols or software, I can potentially find flaws but also improve on the protocol. Over time, as more developers gain access, hopefully, they will open up that documentation."

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
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Edge-DRsplash-10-edge-articles
I Smell a RAT! New Cybersecurity Threats for the Crypto Industry
David Trepp, Partner, IT Assurance with accounting and advisory firm BPM LLP,  7/9/2021
News
Attacks on Kaseya Servers Led to Ransomware in Less Than 2 Hours
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  7/7/2021
Commentary
It's in the Game (but It Shouldn't Be)
Tal Memran, Cybersecurity Expert, CYE,  7/9/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Enterprise Cybersecurity Plans in a Post-Pandemic World
Download the Enterprise Cybersecurity Plans in a Post-Pandemic World report to understand how security leaders are maintaining pace with pandemic-related challenges, and where there is room for improvement.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-41315
PUBLISHED: 2021-09-17
The Device42 Remote Collector before 17.05.01 does not sanitize user input in its SNMP Connectivity utility. This allows an authenticated attacker (with access to the console application) to execute arbitrary OS commands and escalate privileges.
CVE-2021-41316
PUBLISHED: 2021-09-17
The Device42 Main Appliance before 17.05.01 does not sanitize user input in its Nmap Discovery utility. An attacker (with permissions to add or edit jobs run by this utility) can inject an extra argument to overwrite arbitrary files as the root user on the Remote Collector.
CVE-2021-31842
PUBLISHED: 2021-09-17
XML Entity Expansion injection vulnerability in McAfee Endpoint Security (ENS) for Windows prior to 10.7.0 September 2021 Update allows a local user to initiate high CPU and memory consumption resulting in a Denial of Service attack through carefully editing the EPDeploy.xml file and then executing ...
CVE-2021-31843
PUBLISHED: 2021-09-17
Improper privileges management vulnerability in McAfee Endpoint Security (ENS) Windows prior to 10.7.0 September 2021 Update allows local users to access files which they would otherwise not have access to via manipulating junction links to redirect McAfee folder operations to an unintended location...
CVE-2021-31844
PUBLISHED: 2021-09-17
A buffer overflow vulnerability in McAfee Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Endpoint for Windows prior to 11.6.200 allows a local attacker to execute arbitrary code with elevated privileges through placing carefully constructed Ami Pro (.sam) files onto the local system and triggering a DLP Endpoint scan t...