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Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Abusing the Internet of Things 26

New submitter sh0wstOpper writes: 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" and our "physical spaces" will become harder to define since the connected objects supporting the IoT ecosystems will have access to both. Keep reading for the rest of sh0wstOpper's review.
Abusing the Internet of Things: Blackouts, Freakouts, and Stakeouts
author Nitesh Dhanjani
pages 296
publisher O'Reilly
rating 9/10
reviewer Dan Smith
ISBN 1491902337
summary Attack & penetration techniques for the Internet of Things
In chapter one 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.

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. Chapter 2 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.

I found chapter 3 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.

The topic of concern of chapter 4 is 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.

I enjoyed chapter 5 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.

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. Chapter 6 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.

I found chapter 7 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.

Looking into the future, chapter 8 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.

Chapter 9 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.

You can purchase Abusing the Internet of Things: Blackouts, Freakouts, and Stakeouts from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews (sci-fi included) -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page. If you'd like to see what books we have available from our review library please let us know
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Book Review: Abusing the Internet of Things

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  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Thursday September 17, 2015 @03:06PM (#50543411) Journal

    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.

    The Internet of Things...it's a cookbook!

    • Lot of hackers tried to hack the thing as cars, door locks, baby monitors, etc, that are connected and accessible from the Internet. Nowadays in the huge risk but huge money on this things they can get easily. And we just want to aware to everyone on the thing. In the world, has great latest technology then you can control this thing with particular code. Can't be hack ever you can check this thing on http://www.locksmithsinscottsd... [locksmiths...tsdale.com]
      • Ohhh really its a mess as i thought MD5 easy to crack. We can control as well as with internet. But i think its now so easy for my friend. He is also a hacker too and they can hack anything on internet.
    • IoT = Internet of Targets, not Internet of Things.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Thursday September 17, 2015 @03:10PM (#50543429)

    >> Chapter 9 includes hypothetical scenarios of an security executive abusing the "buzz" around IoT
    >> concept of bug bounty programs
    >> chapter 7 refreshing because it approaches security from the eyes of someone who wants to design a new IoT product

    So...who's the audience, exactly? Executives? Developers? Engineers? None of the above?

    >> The slang term *encraption* (with the emphasis on *crap*) is affectionately used by the cyber- security community to call out badly implemented encryption

    I'v been in the industry 15 years. I've never heard anyone use that term.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      >> The slang term *encraption* (with the emphasis on *crap*) is affectionately used by the cyber- security community to call out badly implemented encryption

      I'v been in the industry 15 years. I've never heard anyone use that term.

      One explanation is that your co-workers use the term all the time, just not to your face.

    • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday September 17, 2015 @04:17PM (#50544005) Homepage

      Anybody who wants to understand how truly fucking pathetic the "interweb of stuff" is, how horribly broken it is, and how corporations are completely inept at security.

      I'd almost call it a case study in showing why the "intertubes of things" is nothing more than marketing hype, overblown claims, and shoddy products.

      Because, really, it is marketing hype, overblown claims, and shoddy products.

      I'm betting 80% of all consumer products which want to have network connectivity are probably trivially exploitable, with the remaining 20% still being easily exploitable. Which is why I won't buy and of this shit, and why I do my best Nelson "Ha ha!" when I hear about how insecure they are.

      I might have to seek this out ... it sounds like a catalog of incompetence, greed, and hubris.

  • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Thursday September 17, 2015 @03:29PM (#50543637) Homepage Journal

    Any chance this book is available for my IoT toaster, so I can read it while waiting for my toast?

    • Any chance this book is available for my IoT toaster, so I can read it while waiting for my toast?

      No, silly. It's available as an ePub. You're going to be using your IoT toaster app on your phone anyway, so you may as well read it on that. Your IoT toaster will send you a push notification when it's done.

    • Only if you download it to the toaster using your Amazon Echo..

  • How about not connecting devices that can be compromised by opening an email attachment or clicking on a URL ..
  • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Thursday September 17, 2015 @06:04PM (#50544805)

    I'm going to sell air-gap-ultrasecured(TM) cars, door locks, baby monitors, etc, that are unreachable from the Internet of Things. They will be impervious to any and all Internet of Things protocols! You might break an encryption key with your ad-hoc compute cluster but grandma's skeleton key is unPwnable!

  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Thursday September 17, 2015 @06:05PM (#50544807)

    ... you can't turn the lights off because the internet connection is down. ... there's a three-second round-trip lag to turn your car on. ... you can turn your heating off from halfway around the world with your phone, but can't find a button on the wall. ... your computer gets a virus and your TV starts advertising sites selling viagra of dubious origin.

  • The Internet of Things is about sensors everywhere and to a more limited extent actuators. But actuators are relatively few compared to sensors. Fine grained sensors are out at the edge here there is no normal wireless connectivity and are quite a challenge to innovate, power and scale out at very low cost. The next challenging is gathering the edge information at highly distributed small systems that may be more wireless/internet connected in some form. While you could hack to corrupt data feeds flowi

    • The Internet of Things is about sensors everywhere and to a more limited extent actuators. But actuators are relatively few compared to sensors. Fine grained sensors are out at the edge here there is no normal wireless connectivity and are quite a challenge to innovate, power and scale out at very low cost. The next challenging is gathering the edge information at highly distributed small systems that may be more wireless/internet connected in some form. While you could hack to corrupt data feeds flowing up the question is what would be the significant payoff to make it worth it at all? You corrupt the out on the farm soil sensors so the watering systems give too much or too little water? Not so easy to get away with and no payoff beyond malice and an ego trip.

      Look carefully everyone - this is the argument from shitty devs of limited cognitive capacity that results in insecure products. The argument "why would anyone want to hack me" is stupid, and people making the argument deserve all the derision we are laying on them. They work under the assumption that no one has an enemy, or an ex, or a corporate competitor, or a disgruntled customer, or an angry creditor...etc... who wants to take them down. This is a stupid argument and you should feel stupid for putting

  • Sorry peeps. But I have zero interest in connecting anything in my house to the internet other than my computers as I at least stand a chance of having reasonable security on them (I configure them)

    It's plainly obvious to me that most manufacturers are utterly clueless. Hard coded piss weak default passwords, internet facing administrative backdoors which are open by default, open ports, a design philosophy of "everything open to anyone by default", no thought that someone might try to attack the device b

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