Feeds

Embedded devices a cinch to pwn

The weak link in the chain

SANS - Survey on application security programs

CanSecWest Cell phones, modems, routers and similar devices are a lot easier to hack than most people think, making them an opportune target for criminals looking for an easy way to pierce a network, a researcher from Juniper networks says.

Speaking at the CanSecWest security conference in Vancouver, Barnaby Jack demonstrated how a soldering kit and some basic knowledge about the processors typically used in embedded devices can allow miscreants to download the firmware running on the hardware. The code can then be modified to make the devices do all kinds of nefarious things, he warns.

Over the past decade, computers - usually those running Windows - have emerged as the vector of choice for cyber crooks. That is beginning to change for several reasons. For one, years of trial and error (with an emphasis on error) has helped Microsoft harden the defenses of its software, making it harder to find critical vulnerabilities. At the same time, the number of cell phones, routers and other embedded devices has proliferated.

Hardware designers often make it easy for their devices to be hacked because they contain debugging functionality and hardware interfaces not needed by end users.

Jack demonstrated how modified firmware for a router made by D-Link changed default settings so remote administration was enabled. (He emphasized gear made by other vendors was equally at risk.) That in turn would allow the router to be accessed remotely, potentially allowing the altering of DNS settings or the disclosure of VPN credentials.

We would have been more impressed had it been possible to modify the firmware remotely. Alas, that was not the case. To alter the settings, the criminal would need to access the device on the local area network. Jack claims similar attacks could be carried out over the net.

We'll give Jack the benefit of the doubt here, not just because we're in a charitable mood, but also because he makes a good point. Embedded devices are everywhere and we suspect little thought or money is put into fortifying them against the increasing sophistication of today's cyber attacks. Consider yourselves warned. ®

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
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
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Mounties always get their man: Heartbleed 'hacker', 19, CUFFED
Canadian teen accused of raiding tax computers using OpenSSL bug
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
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.