Wireless Home Technologies Create Security Risks

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Christopher Barber


We are all committed to home technology. We have wireless networks and a whole host of devices. Along with the normal invasion of technology, many of us have home automation capabilities that enable us to check video cameras and adjust the temperature or control lights in our homes — all by simply using our mobile devices. The advancement of embedded devices that are wirelessly enabled provides convenience to many of us in our complex and interconnected world.

That sounds great. Doesn't it? Until you consider the security implications. 

With the products available for professional or DIY home automation, the security dangers start with the protocols used for wired and wireless connectivity. Even with devices that use WPA2 encryption when they connect to your home wireless network, a breach could only be a matter of time and interest. An attacker could eventually crack your authentication due to lack of proper passphrase or through social engineering techniques to discover the passphrase and other information about your home automation implementation.

However, more and more of these devices are using protocols such as Zigbee (IEEE 802.15.4) or Z-Wave which is a sub-gigahertz (900Mhz) protocol included in the G.9959 standard, that defines a set of guidelines for sub-1-GHz narrowband wireless devices. Both of these protocols utilize frequency ranges commonly known as the ISM (Industrial, Scientific, and Medical) bands.

How long will it be before the nefarious members of our world take advantage of this new attack landscape? As long as product development advances faster than security, it would not take long or be difficult. It would not be difficult for a hacker to figure out how to hack into your home and do more than just hack your desktop if you do not have the proper security measures in place.

Think about the implications. How about someone turning off the power to your home when planning to break in, potentially disabling lights, alarm systems and phones? How about someone remotely unlocking your house, whether you are home or not? I will leave the numerous other possibilities to your imagination. In closing, I hope you begin to think about and understand the dangers that are associated with the future of home automation systems, especially as technology continues to outpace security considerations.

Look for future blogs from me where I will continue this investigation by diving deeper into the devices and security mechanisms that these products utilize.

About the Author: Christopher is a threat analyst with the Solutionary Security Engineering Research Team (SERT). He is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEHv7) specializing in emerging threat intelligence, digital forensics and vulnerability research.

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