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

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Windows 10 Migration: Getting It Right
Kevin Alexandra, Principal Solutions Engineer at BeyondTrust,  5/15/2019
Baltimore Ransomware Attack Takes Strange Twist
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  5/14/2019
When Older Windows Systems Won't Die
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  5/17/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: Who replaced the "Scroll Lock" key with a "Screen Lock" key?
Current Issue
Building and Managing an IT Security Operations Program
As cyber threats grow, many organizations are building security operations centers (SOCs) to improve their defenses. In this Tech Digest you will learn tips on how to get the most out of a SOC in your organization - and what to do if you can't afford to build one.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-12173
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-18
MacDown 0.7.1 (870) allows remote code execution via a file:\\\ URI, with a .app pathname, in the HREF attribute of an A element. This is different from CVE-2019-12138.
CVE-2019-12172
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-17
Typora 0.9.9.21.1 (1913) allows arbitrary code execution via a modified file: URL syntax in the HREF attribute of an AREA element, as demonstrated by file:\\\ on macOS or Linux, or file://C| on Windows. This is different from CVE-2019-12137.
CVE-2019-12168
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-17
Four-Faith Wireless Mobile Router F3x24 v1.0 devices allow remote code execution via the Command Shell (aka Administration > Commands) screen.
CVE-2019-12170
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-17
ATutor through 2.2.4 is vulnerable to arbitrary file uploads via the mods/_core/backups/upload.php (aka backup) component. This may result in remote command execution. An attacker can use the instructor account to fully compromise the system using a crafted backup ZIP archive. This will allow for PH...
CVE-2019-11644
PUBLISHED: 2019-05-17
In the F-Secure installer in F-Secure SAFE for Windows before 17.6, F-Secure Internet Security before 17.6, F-Secure Anti-Virus before 17.6, F-Secure Client Security Standard and Premium before 14.10, F-Secure PSB Workstation Security before 12.01, and F-Secure Computer Protection Standard and Premi...