Smart TVs riddled with DUMB security holes

Fake content, snooping, LAN attacks and more


It's been known for some time that “smart TVs” are dumb about security, but a German researcher has demonstrated that the stupidity goes so far as to enable remote snooping or even a takeover of the in-set computer.

Nruns researcher Martin Herfurt has taken work begun at the Darmstadt University of Technology to demonstrate a range of remote attacks on Samsung Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TVs – HbbTVs – that include WiFi eavesdropping, fake analytics, content redirection, fake news tickers, Bitcoin mining and more.

Herfurt's post describing the attacks, here, credits TU Darmstadt for demonstrating that MAC addresses and packet lengths sniffed from the TV's WiFi stream allow an eavesdropper to snoop someone's viewing habits.

More entertaining, however, is the number of ways an attacker could redirect the viewing of a victim, because the smart TVs use an embedded Web browser – in the case of Samsung, complete with Javascript support and WebKit 1.1 compatibility – which among other things reads HTML embedded in DVB streams.

This, Herfurt writes, makes it trivial for an attacker to inject their own URLs into the stream, or use DNS attacks to redirect the TVs to their own content. He also noted that none of the broadcasters using HbbTV capabilities are doing so over SSL, allowing content spoofing.

All of these attacks suggest other, even more malicious, possibilities: “Once attackers managed to redirect the HTTP requests of the TV to controlled sources, many different HTML-/Javascript-based attacks become possible,” he writes.

And yes, those attacks include Bitcoin mining – although The Register presumes you'd need a lot of televisions to get anywhere – because one of Herfurt's collaborators, Matthias Zeitler, demonstrated dropping the Javascript-based BitcoinPlus onto an attacked TV.

Finally, Herfurt notes, the presence of the Javascript XmlHttpRequest object in the TVs provides a vector for a number of attacks on the LAN the device is attached to. He suggests that TV manufacturers do more work to make the browsers secure and configurable by users. ®

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