Feeds

Infrared exploits open the door to hotel hacking

Free smut - do not disturb

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Insecure hotel infra-red systems create a means for hackers to read other guest's emails, watch porno films for free and put false charges onto other guest's accounts. Adam Laurie, technical director at secure hosting outfit The Bunker, was able to demonstrate the attacks to Wired prior to giving a talk on the vulnerabilities at last week's DefCon conference in Las Vegas.

Using only a laptop and a USB TV tuner, Laurie was able to use an infrared connection to a hotel's web-enabled TV to tune into data that the backend system is broadcasting but he shouldn't be able to receive. In this way he was able to view premium content, access backend billing systems and view emails of guests who accessed web mail services via their TV. He was also able to access the desktop of backend computers and launch applications. "No one thinks about the security risks of infrared because they think it's used for minor things like garage doors and TV remotes," Laurie said. "But infrared uses really simple codes, and they don't put any kind of authentication (in it)... If the system was designed properly, I shouldn't be able to do what I can do."

"As far as the hotel is concerned, you're the only person who can see (your bill). But they're sending your confidential data over the air through a broadcast system. It's the equivalent of running an open wireless access point. If I tune my TV to your channel, then I get to see what you're doing," Laurie told Wired.

Infrared systems are used throughout hotels in air conditioning systems, vending machines and many other pieces of equipment but it's their use in hotel TV systems that connect to backend and billing systems that represent the greatest scope for mischief. Laurie said that many hotel infrared systems are rolled out with password controls or back-end authentication that would frustrate exploitation. Data is commonly stored and transmitted in the clear without protection from encryption. Because most hotel use similar systems from a small number of suppliers, Laurie has been able to replicate the attack across the world over the last two years.

Laurie discovered the security loophole when he was "mucking about with hotel TVs to get the porn channel without paying for it". Tuning into content that's been broadcast but a hotel TV is not configured to receive is one thing - and might be carried out by tuning in a VCR - but Laurie was able to take this further by deciphering the codes transmitted from a remote control device to a TV. Laurie has created a program to analyse and map the codes and a script to test out their effect when sent to his TV. He did this for research purposes and doesn't plan to release the tools.

As more devices become network enabled the scope for hacking increases. Laurie's work shows the issue is not just confined to devices connected to the web. Infra-red (and conceivably Bluetooth) connected systems might also be exploited. ®

Related stories

Bluetooth is attack vector for mobile phones
Security researchers nibble at Bluetooth
Cisco retails networked hotel vision
The digital home cometh, says Intel

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Google recommends pronounceable passwords
Super Chrome goes into battle with Mr Mxyzptlk
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
THREE QUARTERS of Android mobes open to web page spy bug
Metasploit module gobbles KitKat SOP slop
'Speargun' program is fantasy, says cable operator
We just might notice if you cut our cables
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Snowden, Dotcom, throw bombs into NZ election campaign
Claim of tapped undersea cable refuted by Kiwi PM as Kim claims extradition plot
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.