BlackBerry Hack a Kettle at Security Summit


At the BlackBerry Security Summit Tuesday, BlackBerry showed off hacking a kettle and offered attendees tips on how to prevent this happening to them.

BlackBerry is keen to demonstrate the increasing security threat surrounding the Internet of Things (IoT) as hackers start to shift from server-level attacks to targeting user end-points, and decided that the best way to demonstrate this was to hack a kettle.

Campbell Murray, technical director of Blackberry-owned Encription, led the demo, showing that common security flaws in the WiFi network, including the use of ‘0000’ as a password, enabled him and his colleague Fraser Winterborn, head of R&D at Encription, to compromise the kettle and capture insecure communications including the user’s location.

During the hack, Murray and Winterborn tapped into the kettle by creating a replica of the secure wireless network it was connected to. Since the fraud network’s signal was stronger than that of the secure network, the kettle connected to the replica network instead. Once the kettle latched on to their fake network, Murray and Winterborn were able to gain access to the passcode for the secure network, and in turn gain access to the previously secure network.

From there, Murray demonstrated how in an enterprise setting hackers could then easily gain access to sensitive communications that were left on what was thought to be a secure network without secondhand encryption from the device. This could especially be a problem in the case of enterprises that have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy.

The entire hack took just 14 minutes, and Murray pointed out that the key takeaway is that no evidence was left behind, and that “the only way to solve these issues is to prevent them”, which businesses fail to do.

Since the kettle has no memory itself, Murray said all traces of the attack would be gone once the device was turned off, leaving forensic investigators probing a breach at a loss as to how it was committed.

“What we have here is a tea maker but it could be anything, a coffee maker, a refrigerator, a blender,” Murray said.

“Flawed security engineering can completely topple in a very short period of time.

Editors Note:  a tea maker is what Americans apparently call a kettle.  Go figure!

Using the example of a kettle that can be programmed to boil based on your location when you arrive home, Murray explained:

“It knows where you are, you compromise that app, we know where you are,” Murray said.

“The loss of personal privacy issue around something so simple is quite significant.”

Research unveiled by the firm during the hack show showed that half of all organisations worth more than $500m admit that they are not fully prepared to deal with a hack, which costs the economy $400bn annually, or one per cent of yearly global income.

Europe was named and shamed as among the worst. BlackBerry said that 80 per cent of European companies have suffered an attack in the past 12 months.

BlackBerry went on to show how the company’s security services could have stopped the attack.

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