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.

Application Security

Malware Makes Itself at Home in Set-Top Boxes

Low-cost boxes that promise free TV streaming services often come complete with malware, according to a new study.

"Free" can be an almost irresistible lure for consumers. When criminals use that lure in the form of television set-top boxes that promise free access to premium channels and services, they can entice many consumers into a trap that takes log-in credentials, private information, and financial data in return for the latest binge-worthy programming.

A new report from the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA) says about 12 million people are using devices that promise illicit access to streaming services. The hackers taking advantage of those users follow a classic pattern in their activity. "[They] bait consumers with offers of free content, infect those that take the bait with malware, and steal vital personal information," the report states.

According to Tom Galvin, executive director of DCA, the problem is not with the hardware of the set-top boxes, many of which are used to host legitimate applications for accessing streaming services. The issue is with the applications that a criminal can load onto the hardware before it's delivered to the consumer.

These boxes, known as "Kodi boxes" for the Android open-source media player that serves as the software hub inside the device, are sold on Craigslist, Amazon, Ebay, and local for-sale websites. "Sandvine has estimated that almost 10% of the homes in North America are using a [Kodi box]," Galvin says. "They figure about 70% of those devices are configured to access unlicensed content." And it's in the apps that allow unlicensed access that the study found malware.

"At least 40% of the apps we evaluated were infected," says Timber Wolfe, owner of Dark Wolfe Consulting, which worked with DCA on the study. Wolfe executed malware found on one box in a controlled environment and then did reverse-engineering on the software. The first thing the software did was contact a server and update to a new version.

"As soon as it updated, it started exhibiting bad behavior," Wolfe says. "It looked for free file shares on my network, uploaded that data to a server, and immediately stole my Wi-Fi credentials," he explains.

Ultimately, the malware uploaded 1.5 terabytes of data from an available file share while it continuously looked for other file shares and unprotected devices on the network. In addition, it specifically looked for other malware.

"It's called 'port knocking," Wolfe says. "It was knocking on my Western Digital 4100 looking specifically for another malware family to open up a port and talk to it."

One of the great dangers of these schemes, beyond the threat to consumer privacy, is that the network-attached devices people use at home and then take to work become attack surfaces hackers can use to get into the corporate network, Galvin says.

Because the boxes themselves aren't illegal, protection from the malware they carry is complicated. "It's a combination of consumer awareness, law enforcement, and making sure that those who have sensitive information are aware of the risks here," Galvin says.

That consumer awareness may be the most important point. "When they put this machine on the network, they have allowed the hacker to bypass most of their security," Galvin says. "They've just escorted the hacker behind the firewall."

Related Content:

 

 

 

Join Dark Reading LIVE for two cybersecurity summits at Interop 2019. Learn from the industry's most knowledgeable IT security experts. Check out the Interop agenda here.

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/10/2020
Researcher Finds New Office Macro Attacks for MacOS
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  8/7/2020
Healthcare Industry Sees Respite From Attacks in First Half of 2020
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  8/13/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: It's a technique known as breaking out of the sandbox kids.
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-20383
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
ABBYY network license server in ABBYY FineReader 15 before Release 4 (aka 15.0.112.2130) allows escalation of privileges by local users via manipulations involving files and using symbolic links.
CVE-2020-24348
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
njs through 0.4.3, used in NGINX, has an out-of-bounds read in njs_json_stringify_iterator in njs_json.c.
CVE-2020-24349
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
njs through 0.4.3, used in NGINX, allows control-flow hijack in njs_value_property in njs_value.c. NOTE: the vendor considers the issue to be "fluff" in the NGINX use case because there is no remote attack surface.
CVE-2020-7360
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
An Uncontrolled Search Path Element (CWE-427) vulnerability in SmartControl version 4.3.15 and versions released before April 15, 2020 may allow an authenticated user to escalate privileges by placing a specially crafted DLL file in the search path. This issue was fixed in version 1.0.7, which was r...
CVE-2020-24342
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
Lua through 5.4.0 allows a stack redzone cross in luaO_pushvfstring because a protection mechanism wrongly calls luaD_callnoyield twice in a row.