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Submission + - Book Review: Abusing the Internet of Things - Blackouts, Freakouts, & Stakeo (amazon.com)

sh0wstOpper writes: author Nitesh Dhanjani
pages 96
publisher O'Reilly
rating 9/10
reviewer Dan Smith
ISBN 1491902337
summary Attack & penetration techniques for the Internet of Things

The topic of the Internet of Things (IoT) is gaining a lot of attention because we are seeing increasing amounts of 'things', such as cars, door locks, baby monitors, etc, that are connected and accessible from the Internet. This increases the chances of someone being able to 'attack' these devices remotely.

The premise of "Abusing the Internet of Things" is that the distinction between our "online spaces" (example social media, email, online banking) and our "physical spaces" (homes and offices) will become harder to define since the connected objects supporting the IoT ecosystems will have access to both. For this reason, there is concern that attacks originating online may not only head to impacts such as the loss of personal data, but actually cause physical harm.

Here is my take on the content per chapter:

1. Lights Out—Hacking Wireless Lightbulbs to Cause Sustained Blackouts
In this chapter, the author takes apart the popular Philips hue lighting systems by examining the various types of communication protocols (Zigbee, TCP/IP). Packet captures of communications between various systems are presented in an easy to understand fashion. An actual vulnerability that can be abused to cause a blackout is also described.

This chapter also discusses how the lighting system and other IoT objects are starting to integrate with each other using the If This Then That (IFTTT) platform. As such, cross-platform vulnerabilities are discussed. I appreciated this section in particular because it did a good job of helping me think of how attackers are likely to leverage the fact that various IoT devices will want to integrate with each other and the compromise of one device can give someone access to other devices.

2. Electronic Lock Picking—Abusing Door Locks to Compromise Physical Security:
There has been a lot of research in the area of wireless door locks. It is easy to see how a simple vulnerability in such a device can compromise physical safety. This chapter clearly articulates vulnerabilities in popular door locks in hotel rooms and how they have been already abused for theft. This chapter also discusses security issues in the Bluetooth Low Energy protocol and closes with good recommendations for consumers as well as for people responsible for designing locks.

3. Assaulting the Radio Nurse—Breaching Baby Monitors and One Other Thing
I found this chapter interesting because it covers the “saga” of popular audio and video monitors manufactured by a company called Foscam. Many researchers have published multiple vulnerabilities in these monitors and this chapter shows how to actually locate hundreds of thousands of exploitable monitors on the Internet. This chapter shows how discussion on Foscam’s own user forums have exploded vulnerabilities.

The Belkin WeMo baby monitor (audio only) is discussed next along with packet captures to show communication details. I like that this book lists such details because it helped me understand how the IoT devices are designed and that made me easier to understand the cause of vulnerabilities.

Real stories of concerned parents as well as incidents of how pranksters have been able to scare parents are also discussed. This really drives home the fact that security issues in these products are being exploited.

4. Blurred Lines—When the Physical Space Meets the Virtual Space
The topic of concern of this chapter are IoT based devices that can be leveraged to protect physical safety. The popular SmartThings suite of IoT devices are the scope of this chapter. Security issues that include hijacking credentials, abusing SmartThings’ own IDE platform, and SSL validation vulnerabilities are described.

5. The Idiot Box—Attacking “Smart” Televisions
I enjoyed this chapter in particular because it walks through multiple security vulnerabilities targeting multiple products of one vendor: Samsung. The chapter describes the “TOCTTOU” attack and how it’s exploited. I’ve tried to read the original researcher’s white paper on this attack and found it confusing but this chapter described it elegantly and I was then able to go back and read the white paper easily.

Bad encryption is the focus of this chapter and I laughed at the heading “You call that encryption?” followed by the sub-heading “I call that encraption”. These sections talk about how badly encryption (using XOR) by Samsung have been used to reverse engineer code. The section ends with the line “The slang term *encraption* (with the emphasis on *crap*) is affectionately used by the cyber- security community to call out badly implemented encryption. As this case shows, the title of this section is entirely justified.”

Since the chapter is focused on one company, the author does a good job of equating the situation to other companies in the past (such as Microsoft) and how systemic security issues like these should ultimately be addressed by the leadership so that security is embedded into the DNA of the company. I found this perspective valuable.

6. Connected Car Security Analysis—From Gas to Fully Electric
The topic of car hacking is one of the reasons I bought this book. I have heard of the author in the past based on his research on the Tesla Model S since I came across his presentation at the Black Hat conference last year. This chapter includes emphasis on the Tesla along with how the back end API works to support features such as locating the car remotely, unlocking it, and even starting it. The lack of 2 factor authentication is an an issue that gives rise to simple technique like phishing that can be used to steal a Tesla. Developers are insecurely leveraging Tesla’s API in a way that is making car owners send over their clear-text credentials to them. I am amazed that this is currently happening and most Tesla owners don’t even know that they are basically handing over their keys to people who they don’t know.

This chapter also covers popular research by Chris Vaslek and Charlie Miller, along with remotely exploitable vulnerabilities in telematics systems which has gained a lot of media attention and concern recently.

7. Secure Prototyping—littleBits and cloudBit
I found this chapter refreshing because it approaches security from the eyes of someone who wants to design a new IoT product. The chapter walks though a design of a wireless door bell using the littleBits IoT platform which is primarily focused on prototyping. The main point of this chapter is that it is much more valuable to design security earlier on in the prototyping stage than deal with security bugs later on in the process. I liked that the chapter uncovered security flaws earlier on in the prototyping of the wireless door bell and tied it back to vulnerabilities found in previous chapters in existing IoT products.

A comprehensive list of threat agents, i.e. the types of entities that may attack an IoT device is presented. This list includes nation states, terrorists, criminal organizations, disgruntled employees, hacktivists, vandals, cyberbullies, and predators. The author does a good job of demonstrating that it is useful to take the use cases of IoT devices and see how each of these threat agents may want to leverage vulnerabilities to achieve their own goals.

The last topic covered here is the concept of bug bounty programs and why it is important for IoT companies to reward researchers who submit security bugs to them for free. I’m close to implementing such a program in my organization so I felt the content in this section was spot on.

8. Securely Enabling Our Future—A Conversation on Upcoming Attack Vectors
Looking into the future, this chapter goes through very interesting methods in ways IoT ecosystems can be exploited, starting with the deployment of drones to track individuals, a group of people, or even take over a city. A ‘cross-device’ attack scenario (with code) to show how a website on a victim’s laptop can verbally instruct the Amazon echo to turn lights off was fun an thought provoking, i.e. the fact that IoT devices around us will be able to tell each other what to do and how this can lead to chaos. In addition to other threats in our future, this chapter opens up discussion on the security of interspace communication (with respect to our goals to send manned spacecraft to mars) and also the importance of treading carefully when it comes to super intelligence.

9. Two Scenarios—Intentions and Outcomes.
This chapter includes 2 short stories, i.e. “hypothetical scenarios” of an security executive abusing the “buzz” around IoT and failing to think of how to secure his company because of lack of strategical thinking. The second short story demonstrates how IoT companies also need to think of human elements, emotions, and public relations in addition to the technical content in this book.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to others. I do feel that a lot of the content can be absorbed even if the reader isn’t technical, but there may be some parts that may be frustrating to someone who doesn’t understand basic concepts of HTTP, TCP/IP, and/or some coding. After reading this book, I feel I have a better grasp of what IoT means to us and what security issues we are facing, and will face.

Submission + - Confronting A BIOS Hack With A .BAT? (wired.com)

TheGip writes: I have been researching the recent flap in BIOS hacks mentioned here and elsewhere lately and was looking at a creating shutdown/startup batch file that would flash the BIOS with a known good backup BIN on every recycle. Has anyone been doing this? If done wrong how would you recover from being bricked? Should machines come with a second BIOS chip just in case?

Submission + - Superadvanced alien civilizations probably don't live in our cosmic neighborhood (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: If there are superadvanced civilizations out there in the nearby universe, they’re hiding themselves pretty well. So concludes an astronomer in the Netherlands who looked at a sample of galaxies that shine unusually brightly at midinfrared wavelengths—a sign that they may harbor a so-called Kardashev type III civilization, one that has the technology to harvest energy from stars across an entire galaxy. Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev proposed in the 1960s grading civilizations by the energy they used: the output of their home planet, their home star, or their home galaxy. A type III, galaxy-wide civilization could hypothetically surround all stars in energy-harvesting “Dyson spheres” but these would nevertheless leak a lot of waste heat in the midinfrared. A U.S. team last year drew up a list of several hundred bright midinfrared candidates from 100,000 local galaxies. But the new study concludes that the midinfrared brightness of most of the sample galaxies probably comes from natural processes, such as dust clouds heated by regions of active star formation. And if there are Kardashev type III civilizations out there, they are either very rare or have the technology to hide their infrared emissions.

Submission + - Affordable 3D metal printer developed, opensourced (techienews.co.uk)

hypnosec writes: Researchers have developed and opensourced a low-cost 3D metal printer capable of printing metal tools and objects with cost under £1,000. A team of researchers led by Associate Professor Joshua Pearce at the Michigan Technological University developed the firmware and the plans for the printer and have made it available freely to anyone interested in taking this further. Built with cost of just £913, the open source 3D printer is definitely a huge leap forward as the starting price of commercial counterparts is £300,000. Pearce claimed that their technology will not only allow smaller companies and start-ups to build inexpensive prototypes, but it will allow other scientists and researchers to build tools and objects required for their research without requiring to shell out thousands. The associate professor also claimed that using the technology, countries can use it to print components and parts for machines such as windmills.

Submission + - Bringing Chemistry Back (kickstarter.com)

IcephishCR writes: The Kansas City store H.M.S. Beagle has a funded Kickstarter campaign to bring back an item I always wanted — but has remained unobtainable from before my youth: a Gilbert Chemistry set. The Benchmark set contains 64 chemicals that the near-useless set of today fail to include.

"Like many young scientists of the time, I received a Gilbert Chemistry set. This chemistry set provided me hours of great fun and learning as well as laying the foundation for my future as a research chemist. As I became an adult I wanted to share these types of experiences with my daughter, my nephews and nieces, and friends. But soon I became aware real chemistry sets were no longer available. Without real chemistry sets and opportunities for students to learn and explore, where would our future chemists come from? So .... I set out on a mission."

Feed Techdirt: Companies Have A Blind Spot To Their Biggest Competitive Threats (techdirt.com)

Years ago, I took a class on IPOs, where the professor (a Wall Street lawyer) said that if you ever actually read and believed the "risk factors" in a company's SEC filings, you'd never bother to invest. They're supposed to be the the absolute worst case scenarios, laid clean, so that any investor can't claim they were blindsided should everything go wrong. In fact, companies are often pushed to make the risk factors seem as scary as possible to avoid the possibility of a later lawsuit. However, as scary as you make them, that still doesn't mean that companies are doing a very good job figuring out what risks are really on the way. Joe Weisenthal does a nice job looking through a bunch of historical financial filings from companies as their market cap peaked to see if they accurately noted the biggest challenges to their business -- and found that they often do not note even the most obvious (in retrospect) challenges. For example, the big newspaper chain McClatchy claimed that the biggest threat to its business in 2005 was the cost of newsprint, barely noting the impact of the internet on any newspaper's core business plan. And that's in 2005 -- not 1995, when it first should have been occurring to folks at newspapers that the internet represented both a threat and an opportunity. He also checked out Microsoft's filings, noting that the company has been incredibly slow to recognize that Google was a competitor in its risk factors listings.

Of course, this raises some interesting questions. Are these companies really missing these threats? Do they start out so small and grow so fast that companies really are taken by surprise? Is it only in hindsight that it seemed obvious? Or is it that the companies don't want to admit these emerging offerings are really threats until they absolutely have to? And... if that's the case, who are they trying to deny the threat to? Themselves? Or their investors? It may be a little of all of that -- but it stands to reason that the denial runs across the board -- and part of it may simply be that companies don't want to admit that these "upstarts" are threats because it could actually serve to legitimize the threat and even accelerate it. Either way, it should make you question just how useful the "risk factors" really are. Even when they're designed to be as conservative as possible, they may actually be used to hide the real threat. Perhaps we need a more open sourced/Wikimedia approach to risk factors. I'd bet that in 2005, if you asked a bunch of knowledgeable folks about McClatchy's risk factors, they'd have named the internet ahead of newsprint costs.

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Feed Engadget: Astucia SolarLite LED studs light up highways after dark (engadget.com)

Filed under: Transportation

A number of UK roads are lookin' a lot brighter now, and it's all thanks to the SolarLite smart stud. Produced and marketed by Astucia, these active markers trump the traditional passive reflectors by storing up solar energy all day and then emitting light from dust 'til dawn in order to improve visibility from around 90-meters to 900-meters. The LED-based units reportedly extend driver reaction time from 3.2-seconds to over half a minute when cruising at 60mph, have an expected lifespan of eight to ten years and are said to have reduced night time accidents in certain areas by over 70-percent. Unfortunately, we've no idea when (or if) these things will show up on roads in other nations, but this would sure beat toggling one's brights off and on to get a better look ahead while simultaneously infuriating oncoming motorists.

[Via Autoblog]

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