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7/1/2019
11:15 AM
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Kaspersky Helps Eliminate Critical Vulnerabilities in Smart Home Controller

Flaws in cloud infrastructure could provide attackers with 'super user' access to smart home controller.

Woburn, MA – July 1, 2019 – Kaspersky researchers have identified several critical vulnerabilities in the control device for an active smart home ecosystem. These vulnerabilities included bugs in the cloud infrastructure and potential remote code execution flaws that would allow a third party to get ‘super user’ access to the controller and manipulate the smart home infrastructure any way they chose. The findings were shared with the vendor, Fibaro, which addressed them immediately and updated their security protocols accordingly.

As the IoT landscape continues to expand and evolve, new threat dimensions emerge through every new product and service, and it is becoming increasingly important for security researchers to examine IoT devices through a critical lens. A Kaspersky employee challenged the company’s researchers to examine the smart system deployed in his home. He granted the researchers access to the smart home controller; the controller was chosen because it connects and supervises overall operations, and a successful compromise would allow a cyberattacker to intrude into the entire home ecosystem.

The initial intelligence-gathering stage of research led the Kaspersky experts to identify several potential attack vectors: via the Z-Wave wireless communications protocol widely used for home automation; via the web interface of the administration panel; and via the cloud infrastructure. The cloud infrastructure was revealed to be the most effective for attack. An examination of the methods used to process requests from the device revealed vulnerability in the authorization process and the potential for remote code execution.

In combination, these vulnerabilities would allow a third party to access all backups that have been uploaded to the cloud from all Fibaro home centers lite. They could also allow an attacker to upload infected backups to the cloud and then download them to a particular controller – despite having no rights in the system.

To complete the experiment, Kaspersky experts implemented a test attack on the controller. For this, they prepared a specific backup with a separately developed script, protected with a password. They then sent an email and SMS to the device’s owner via the cloud, urging him to update the controller’s firmware. As requested, the ‘victim’ agreed and downloaded the infected backup. This enabled the researchers to obtain super user rights to the smart home controller, allowing them to manipulate the connected ecosystem. To demonstrate their successful intrusion into the system, the researchers changed the tune on the victim’s alarm clock.

“Unlike us, a real attacker with access to the home center would be unlikely to limit themselves to a prank with an alarm clock,” said Pavel Cheremushkin, security researcher at Kaspersky ICS CERT. “One of the main tasks of the device we studied is the integration of all ‘smart things’ so that the owner of the house can manage them from a single home center. An important detail is that our assessment targeted an actively deployed system – previously, most of the research was conducted in lab conditions. The research has shown that despite a growing awareness of IoT security, there are still issues to be addressed. Even more importantly, the devices we studied are mass-produced and deployed in functioning smart home networks. We thank Fibaro for its responsible attitude to the issues, as we know they are focused on cybersecurity, and making the home of our colleague much more secure than it was before the research.”

“IoT infrastructure requires a complicated system working fluently on many layers,” said Krzysztof Banasiak, CPO FIBARO. “It involves lots of implemental and architectural work. We appreciate Kaspersky’s research and effort. It helped us work on the security of our products and services. Together we eliminated potential vulnerabilities. We highly recommend installing updates to FIBARO users, and always checking if the e-mails are consistent with FIBARO website announcements. The updates increase functionality of the system as well as make it harder for hackers to steal private data.”

To keep IoT devices safe, Kaspersky advises the following:

  • When deciding what part of your life you’re going to make a little bit smarter, consider the security risks.
  • Before buying an IoT device, search the internet for news of any vulnerabilities with the vendor or the device.
  • Along with the standard bugs often found in new products, recently launched devices may have security issues that researchers have not yet discovered. With this in mind, the best choice is to buy products that have already experienced several software updates rather than the most recent products released on the market.
  • Make sure all your devices are up to date with all the latest security and firmware updates.
  • Use a security solution like Kaspersky Security Cloud that protects online accounts and home Wi-Fi networks. This solution will notify the user if any unknown devices try to connect to the network, and will automatically alert the user of security threats with expert advice on what action to take.

The full text of the report on this research is available on Securelist.

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