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Vulnerabilities / Threats

Hacking Your Hotel Room

At Black Hat USA next month, a researcher will show how to hack your way into controlling everything in a hotel room -- from lighting to television sets.

It sounds so convenient.

Using just an iPad 2, guests at the St. Regis Shenzhen in China could control the heat in their room, turn on the TV, or even open the blinds.

But that convenience, as security researcher Jesus Molina discovered, came with a bit of a price. According to Molina, it was possible for an attacker to exploit a lack of security to remotely take control of virtually every appliance in the hotel.

At the upcoming Black Hat USA security conference in Las Vegas, Molina will walk through exactly how a hacker could do exactly that. At the center of the issue, Molina explained, is the lack of security in the implementation of home automation protocols, in this case KNX/IP.

"All these home automation protocols -- except ZigBee, which is kind of recent -- they are very old, but they are very extended so you cannot get rid of them," says Molina.

This may be good for businesses looking to create the type of super remote control that was used at the St. Regis Shenzhen, but the lack of authentication and encryption makes it good for attackers as well. According to Molina, the hotel - which took down the system after he presented hotel management with his findings - used the same wireless network for sending commands from the iPad that guests used to surf the Internet.

"The attacker needs software that [talks] KNX protocol," he says. "There are some open source options... but it's easy to implement the protocol in a small program. The attacker needs to know the address of each room and device."

At the St. Regis Shenzhen, the iPads had a static address, and sent a UDP packet with their room number periodically, he says.

"I changed rooms, and blindly tried to change the channel of that room with my laptop," Molina says. "But also, the outside lights were used to make sure I had the right address for the room. As I could make the 'Do Not Disturb' light heartbeat, I could make sure I had the right address for the room."

The attack, he notes, could be launched for anywhere; the hacker need not be in the vicinity of the hotel, or even in the country for that matter.

During his talk, he plans to offer details on the anatomy of the attack and explain the reverse engineering of the KNX/IP protocol as well as a description of deployment flaws and how to create an iPad Trojan to send commands outside the hotel.

He stumbled onto the issue during a business trip in China last year. During the trip, he stayed at the hotel and, intrigued by the idea of the iPad, began to record its traffic. At the time he did nothing with the information. However, in a separate visit to the hotel months later, he decided to experiment.

"The actual collecting of information and figuring out what are all the codes took me a couple of days," he says.

"The problem with hotels in particular is right now there really is no standard for securing [them]; there is no standard for how to deploy these things," he says. "And this kind of reflects the current status of the Internet of Things. Everybody deploys home automation in their own way. "

 

Brian Prince is a freelance writer for a number of IT security-focused publications. Prior to becoming a freelance reporter, he worked at eWEEK for five years covering not only security, but also a variety of other subjects in the tech industry. Before that, he worked as a ... View Full Bio

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n0md3plum
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n0md3plum,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/24/2014 | 5:29:11 PM
Re: Eh, I threat I don't feel too threatened by
I wear 6 proxies whenever I use hotel WiFi.
Robert McDougal
50%
50%
Robert McDougal,
User Rank: Ninja
7/22/2014 | 11:31:40 AM
Re: There are higher risks
I never use wi-fi in public places if I can help it.  The reason is simple, an attacker can turn a laptop into a wireless endpoint and have other guests connect to it rather than the actual endpoint in 5 minutes.  Once the attacker does that he can see everything you are browsing for and steal credentials quite easily.  
miketcook
50%
50%
miketcook,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/21/2014 | 10:55:17 PM
Re: Connectivity is bi-directional
Use your own hot-spot from your phone.  Better yet, use it with a USB cable.  Are we not in the Security profession?
Marilyn Cohodas
50%
50%
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
7/21/2014 | 2:07:09 PM
Re: Connectivity is bi-directional
Many hotels still have a wired connection. But, i agree, @ChrisMurphy, for road warriors hotel wifi is definitely an essential element. 
ChrisMurphy
50%
50%
ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Strategist
7/21/2014 | 1:56:17 PM
Re: Connectivity is bi-directional
How do you avoid using wi-fi at hotels and still get any work done on the road? 
Dr.T
50%
50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
7/21/2014 | 1:52:01 PM
Re: There are higher risks
I agree. No end device is secure if core is compromised. Hotels network are not in our control, same as Starbucks' network. 
Dr.T
50%
50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
7/21/2014 | 1:50:09 PM
Re: Eh, I threat I don't feel too threatened by
I would like to think that no vulnerability is a small when it comes to security. That is all it is needed actually one small hole and then whole network is compromised.
Dr.T
50%
50%
Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
7/21/2014 | 1:47:08 PM
Connectivity is bi-directional
 

I tend to try not to use WiFi in other places even though they are presented as secure. Connectivity is always bi-directional, if you connected you are also connected. If the servers in the hotel is compromised that would easy exploit vulnerabilities in your iPad's end-to-end security measures.
Marilyn Cohodas
50%
50%
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
7/21/2014 | 9:08:31 AM
There are higher risks
If a hacker can get into your hotel room, there must certainly be risk associated with hacking into the hotel wifi service and getting at your laptop. Not a good thing for business travelers..
ChrisMurphy
50%
50%
ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Strategist
7/21/2014 | 7:09:41 AM
Re: Eh, I threat I don't feel too threatened by
True about the low risk here, but he larger picture here is the hacking risk of the Internet of things. What if they networked the door lock, for the convenience of only having to carry your phone?
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