Somebody’s watching me

Have you ever felt like somebody is listening to your private conversations? Would you believe that this could happen within your own living room?

A recent POC carried out by the BugSec research team exposed vulnerabilities in a smart TV operating system sold by a well-known telecommunications company. The team discovered that hackers were using malicious applications to access the TV operating system and were able to listen to any conversations that took place in the vicinity using built-in microphones designed for voice commands.

This is how we figured it out:

It began with a simple penetration test that BugSec’s Red Team conducted for a smartphone manufacturer. The manufacturer was extremely pleased with our findings, which showed our innovation and outside-of-the-box thinking when it comes to HW/SW manipulation. We were then asked to perform a smart TV penetration test, which of course, we agreed to right away.

In general, smart TVs operate similarly to smartphones. They have common known hardware, use a compiled version of an open source operating system (e.g. Android TV), and have a flexible UI that’s designed and developed by the manufacturer. They also have an applications-ready platform which allows developers to gain access to certain hardware components such as microphones and data stored in the TV drives. A penetration test for smart TV is no different than a penetration test for a smartphone as far as the techniques and attack landscape go.

Our smart TV test focused on a very common app that is widely used and installed across many customers. After successfully exploiting a vulnerability, we were able to gain full control of the TV set. Through various manipulation techniques, we were then able to manage the hardware components – from there, it was a short path to opening a built-in microphone for voice tapping.

What are the key take-aways form this? The more a device is connected and behaves like a computer, the more hackable it is. The manufacturer was happy to get the test results, of course, while we continue to search for new vulnerabilities so that we can get to them before the bad guys do.