Feeds

Infrared exploits open the door to hotel hacking

Free smut - do not disturb

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

SANS - Survey on application security programs

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

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
NSA denies it knew about and USED Heartbleed encryption flaw for TWO YEARS
Agency forgets it exists to protect communications, not just spy on them
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.