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.


Nothing is bulletproof

Companies that collect sensitive customer data (like credit card details and social security numbers) must adhere to the strictest regulations and industry standards, which include data segmentation and separation. But can these companies claim that their data is “100% safe?”

BugSec’s cyber-attack simulation is designed to test this. Using multiple modern techniques such as reconnaissance, social engineering, phishing, asset mapping and more, we launch a pretend attack on the organization’s infrastructure. The main purpose is to test the existing security shields, see whether they operate in a synchronized manner, and provide an answer to the question – am I safe?

Several months ago, a PCI-DSS compliant organization from the credit card industry asked us to conduct a cyber-attack simulation to test whether its data – the holy grail for any hacker – was secure. The company’s decision makers were anxious to find out whether their security measures were bulletproof due to the sensitivity of the data they collect and in light of recent cyber-attacks against industry competitors, like Equifax.

At first glance, we must admit, the organization’s policies and controls were very strict and operated in perfect harmony – it was a real beauty from a security perspective. But we dug a little deeper and discovered the weakest link, [the human factor]. We were able to deliver our malware throughout this channel.

Once we were inside the system, it still wasn’t easy to get to the data. As we all know, a PCI-DSS environment is very committed to data segmentation and sometimes even physically separated. But, we were eventually able to gain access after successful privilege escalation and holding a domain admin account (once again, the human factor). From this point we progressed toward the trophy – PCI DB, and once achieved and exfiltrated out (with extreme precautions), we presented it to the customer who remained speechless.

Unfortunately, there’s no patch for human error – that’s our response when companies ask us what’s left to purchase or install in order to prevent it? This brings us back to a very basic axiom – user awareness to cyber threats costs 0.1% from a known control and efficient 10 times if not more.


Lights security doesn’t have to be light security

Megacities around the world no longer consider operational technology (OT) as a standalone system when it comes to city operations. As metropolises change over to a “smart cities” model by connecting most of their critical infrastructure into one major operational network, they also face greater exposure to certain cyber threats.

SCADA and ICS infrastructure are considered dinosaurs as far as their technology goes. They use old operating systems, old-fashioned authentication techniques, non-security-oriented networks, and many other outdated systems expose them to modern threats. Up until a few years ago, OT assets were relatively protected from cybersecurity threats since OT infrastructure wasn’t integrated with any of the city’s IT systems. But, due to the smart cities revolution, which has led to the interconnectivity of OT and IT, they are now exposed to the same risks that the IT world has been facing for years.

During a recent successful POC, BugSec exposed the vulnerabilities within the lighting system of a major European city. Our team was able to use remote code execution on a specific server, and after a few lateral moves, could eventually control the city’s entire lighting system.

This is how it’s done:

During a standard penetration test on a web application used for soccer ticket sales, BugSec gained access to a vulnerable server through remote code execution (RCE). In a short time, we had full control. We then performed a quick lateral move within the system and gained access to an operator workstation, which controls the lighting system of the whole soccer stadium. From there, we could easily connect to the city’s major lighting system network. This led us to understand the immense vulnerabilities of this system and just how easy it would be for a malicious hacker to take over the city’s lighting network, leading to a game-over situation.

This demonstrates how cybersecurity is extremely non-mature when it comes to SCADA and ICS systems, and proves that for many reasons SCADA and ICS manufacturers aren’t paying attention to security issues as they seem to be following an ancient perspective where security equals non-operation. This notion, of course, doesn’t jive with modern technology or with the integration of OT and IT systems. BugSec’s POC, along with other similar ones and real breaches within the SCADA and ICS industry, are a strong proof point that the time for change has arrived.