Hackers found 47 new vulnerabilities in 23 IoT devices at DEF CON

IoT devices are still plagued by basic security flaws.
Credit: Stephen Lawson

The results from this year's IoT hacking contest are in and it's not a pretty picture

Smart door locks, padlocks, thermostats, refrigerators, wheelchairs and even solar panel arrays were among the internet-of-things devices that fell to hackers during the IoT Village held at the DEF CON security conference in August.

A month after the conference ended, the results are in: 47 new vulnerabilities affecting 23 devices from 21 manufacturers were disclosed during the IoT security talks, workshops and onsite hacking contests.

The types of vulnerabilities found ranged from poor design decisions like the use of plaintext and hard-coded passwords to coding flaws like buffer overflows and command injection.

Door locks and padlocks from vendors like Quicklock, iBlulock, Plantraco, Ceomate, Elecycle, Vians, Lagute, Okidokeys, Danalock were found to be vulnerable to password sniffing and replay attacks, where a captured command can be replayed later to open the locks.

A wheelchair from an unknown vendor had a vulnerability that could be exploited to disable a safety feature and take control of the device. A thermostat from Trane used a weak plain text protocol potentially allowing attackers to cause excessive heating, furnace failures or frozen water pipes by manipulating thermostat functionality.

Several security issues, including a hard-coded password, a command injection flaw, an open access point connection and a lack of network segmentation were found in a solar array management device from Tigro Energy.

By exploiting these flaws "I can shut down the equivalent of a small to mid-sized power generation facility or I can use that device as a trojan within a target's network to spy on them," Fred Bret-Mounet, the researcher who found the issues, wrote in their description. "It looks very likely that I can remotely physically damage a solar array using this device."

Another researcher found that he could convert guest access to a smart lock from a vendor called August into irrevocable admin access. Gaining short-term access to the lock owner's phone could also be turned into long-term admin access.

"If you bought a used ASL-01 lock, any previous owner or guest of a previous owner could gain access to your home," the researcher said. "If you bought a used lock on eBay said previous owner knows where you live."

Home networking devices were not left out. A buffer overflow and a cross-site request forgery flaw was found in the Belkin F9K1122 wireless range extender and a buffer overflow was found in the ZyXel NBG6716 wireless router. The flaws could be exploited to take control of local networks.

This is the second year that the IoT Village was held at DEF CON and the event has so far led to the discovery of 113 critical vulnerabilities across consumer and business IoT products. Its success shows that many device manufacturers in this tech segment continue to ignore security best practices.

Even though there have been some efforts to draft security guides and standards for IoT vendors, the rush to bring new "smart" devices to market will unfortunately mean that many of them will have critical flaws.

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