WeMo IoT Vulnerability Lets Attackers Run Code On Android Phone

Vulnerabilities in Belkin’s WeMo home automation device, now fixed, could exploit Android smartphones or grant root to WeMo.

The DDoS attack on DNS provider Dyn Oct. 21 brought IoT security into the general public’s consciousness for the first time. Now, researchers from Invincea Labs have discovered two vulnerabilities in Belkin’s WeMo home automation devices, one of which demonstrated that a flaw in an IoT device could cause problems with an Android smartphone.

“In the past, people may not have been concerned if there were vulnerabilities with their Internet-connected lighting or crockpot, but now that we’ve discovered that bugs in IoT systems can impact their smartphones, people will pay a bit more attention,” says Scott Tenaglia, research director at Invincea Labs. “It’s the first case that we’ve found that an insecure IoT device could be used to run malicious code inside a phone.”

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Tenaglia, along with Joseph Tanen, lead research engineer, conducted their tests over the summer. They found two vulnerabilities. The first is a SQL injection vulnerability that could be used to gain root access to a WeMo device. When the WeMo app on the smartphone would set a rule that, for example, would make all the lights in the home shut off at 10 p.m., the app would run a SQL query that was susceptible to SQL injection.

The fix, which Belkin confirmed was made available yesterday, was to release firmware that sanitizes the inputs used to build SQL queries. Belkin said it will push the fix out via the app, so users will see a new firmware notification when they open up the application.

For the second vulnerability, Tenaglia and Tanen found that the name of the device that’s displayed in the Android app could be changed to a malicious string containing JavaScript code. So when a user would open the device in the app, instead of displaying “Upstairs Baby Monitor,” for example, the phone would execute the malicious code contained in the name. Tanen said users would know that something was wrong because instead of Upstairs Baby Monitor they would see an alphanumeric string and language that looked like code instead of plain English.

Belkin issued a fix for this flaw with a software update included in version 1.15.2 back in August. The fix was to update the Apache Cordova framework that the application is based on. Once a user installs the patch, the malicious code does not launch. 

Tenaglia and Tanen will present their research this Friday morning at Black Hat Europe 2016 in London at a session titled, Breaking BHAD: Abusing Belkin Home Automation Devices. 

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Steve Zurier has more than 30 years of journalism and publishing experience, most of the last 24 of which were spent covering networking and security technology. Steve is based in Columbia, Md. View Full Bio

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