Merry HaXmas to you! Each year we mark the 12 Days of HaXmas with 12 blog posts on hacking-related topics and roundups from the year. This year, we're highlighting some of the “gifts” we want to give back to the community. And while these gifts may not come wrapped with a bow, we hope you enjoy them.

As we close out the end of the year, I find it important to reflect on the IoT vulnerability research conducted during 2016 and what we learned from it. There were several exciting IoT vulnerability research projects conducted by Rapid7 employees in 2016, which covered everything from lighting automation solutions to medical devices. Through this research, we want to give the "gift" of more information about IoT security to the community. In the spirit of the celebrating the holidays, let's recap and celebrate each of these projects and some of the more interesting findings.

Comcast XFINITY Home Security System

2016 opened with a research project on the Comcast XFINITY Home Security System which was published in January 2016. Phil Bosco, a member of the Rapid7's Global Services pen test team, targeted his XFINITY home security systems for evaluation. During testing, Phil discovered that by creating a failure condition in the 2.4 GHz radio frequency band used by the Zigbee communication protocol, the Comcast XFINITY Home Security System would fail open, with the base station failing to recognize or alert on a communications failure with the component sensors. This interesting finding showed us that if communication to the systems sensors is lost, the system would fail to recognize that lost communication. Additionally, this failure also prevented the system from properly alarming when the sensor detected a condition such as a open door or window. This vulnerability allowed anyone capable of interrupting the 2.4 GHz Zigbee communication between sensor and base station to effectively silence the system. Comcast has since fixed this issue.

Osram Sylvania Lightify Automated Lighting

Since automated lighting has become very popular I decided to examine the OSRAM Sylvania LIGHTIFY automated lighting solution. This research project consisted of looking at both the Home and Pro (enterprise) versions. This project ended up revealing a total of nine issues, four in the Home version and five in the Pro. The Pro version had the most interesting of these results which included identifying issues consisting of persistent Cross Site Scripting (XSS) and Weak default WPA2 pre-shared keys (PSKs). The XSS vulnerabilities we found had two entry points with the most entertaining one being an out of band injection using WiFi Service Set Identifier (SSID) to deliver the XSS attack into the Pro web management interface. A good explanation of this type of attack delivery method is explained in a Whiteboard Wednesday video I recorded. Next, the finding that I would consider the most worrisome is the WPA PSK issue. Default passwords have been a scourge of IoT recently. Although, in this case the default password are different across every Pro device produces, closer examination of the WPA PSK revealed they were easily cracked. So how did this happen? Well, in this case the PSK was only eight characters long, which is considered very short for a PSK, and it only used characters that were hexadecimal lowercase (abcdef0123456789) which makes the number of combinations or key space much easier to brute force  and can allow a malicious actor to capture a authentication handshake and brute force it offline in only a few hours.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Trackers

You ever get curious about those little Bluetooth low energy (BLE) tracker dongles you can hang on your key chain that helps you locate your keys if you misplace them? So did I, but my interest went a little further then finding my lost keys. I was interested in how they worked and what, if any, security issues could be associated to their use or misuse. I purchased several different brands and started testing their ecosystem, yes ecosystem, that is all of the services that make an IoT solution function, which often includes the hardware, mobile applications and cloud APIs. One of the most fascinating aspects of these devices is the crowd GPS concept. How does that work? Let's say you attach one of the devices to your bicycle and it gets stolen. Every time that bicycle passes within close proximity to another user of that specific product their cell phone will detect your dongle on the bicycle and send the GPS location to the cloud allowing you to identify its location. Kind of neat and I expect it works well if you have an area with a good saturation of users, but if you live in a rural area there's less chance of that working as well. During this project we identified several interesting vulnerabilities related to the tracking identifiers and GPS tracking. For example, we found that the devices' tracking ID was easy identified and in a couple cases was directly related to the BLE physical address. Combining that with some cloud API vulnerabilities, we were able to track a user using the GPS of their device. Additionally, in couple cases we were able to poison the GPS data for other devices. With weak BLE pairing, we were also able to gain access to a couple of the devices and rename them and set off their location alarms which drained the small batteries for the devices.

Animas OneTouch Ping Insulin Pump

Rapid7's Jay Radcliffe, a member of the Global Services team and security researcher at Rapid7, found several fascinating vulnerabilities while testing the Animas OneTouch Ping insulin pump. Jay is renowned for his medical device research, which has a personal aspect to it as he is diabetic. In the case of the Animas OneTouch, Jay found and reported three vulnerabilities which include cleartext communication, weak pairing between remote and pump, and replay attack vulnerability. During this research project it was determined that these vulnerabilities could be used to potentially dispense insulin remotely, which could impact the safety and health of the user. Jay worked closely with the manufacturer to help create effective mitigations for these vulnerabilities, which can be used to reduce or eliminate the risk. Throughout the project, there was positive collaboration between Jay, Rapid7 and Johnson & Johnson and patients were notified prior to disclosure.


Stepping back and taking a holistic look at all of the vulnerabilities found during these research projects, we can notice a pattern of common issues including:

  • Lack of communication encryption
  • Poor device pairing
  • Confidential data (such as passwords) stored within mobile applications
  • Vulnerability to replay attacks
  • Weak default passwords
  • Cloud API and device management web services vulnerable to common web vulnerabilities

These findings are not a surprise and appear to be issues we commonly encounter when examining an IoT product's ecosystem. What is the solution to resolving these issues then? First, IoT manufactures can easily apply some basic testing across these areas to quickly identify and fix vulnerabilities on products prior to going to market. Second, we as end users can change default passwords, such as the standard login password and WiFi WPA PSK, to protect our devices from many forms of compromise.

It is also important to note that these IoT research projects are just a few examples of the dedication that Rapid7 and its employees have in regards to securing the world of IoT.  These research projects allow us to continually expand our knowledge around IoT security and vulnerabilities. By working closely with vendors to identify and mitigate issues, we can continue to help those vendors in expanding their working knowledge of security, which will flow into future products. Our work also allows us to share this knowledge with consumers so they can make better choices and mitigate common risks that are often found within IoT products.