VTech's Android tablet for kids 'hopelessly insecure'

Dump data partition, removable memory card, developer mode – all possible

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Toymaker VTech – already under heavy fire for a massive security breach and insecure apps – faces fresh security criticism: researchers have discovered it was possible to easily lift data from its Innotab tablet.

Tests by UK security consultancy Pen Test Partners revealed that it was easy to harvest data left on any lost, stolen, or resold Innotab slabs. Passwords, PINs, email addresses, app data, and more are all potentially exposed because of a lack of security controls or built-in encryption.

VTech’s Innotab tablet is based on the RockChip CPU. Pen Test Partners previously discovered that the RockChip allows data to be read if the device is in a "bricked" or crashed state.

Most devices need a mode in order to recover from a bricked state, for example where an update went wrong. It should be possible to write firmware to a device in this Flash mode but not to read off data, which Pen Test Partners were able to lift using a USB cable and the application of a modest degree of technical know-how.

The Innotab tablet – which VTech markets for use by children – runs Android version of 4.1.1.

Pen Test Partners further discovered that it was possible to dump the data partition. This dump could be mounted and read, again with a minimum of technical common sense.

"This bug has been known about for well over 2 years," Ken Munro, a director at Pen Test Partners, explains in a blog post. "It's a bit lame of VTech to continue shipping vulnerable tablets – tablets that expose children's data.

"Most other Android tabs do offer encryption, even cheap ones," Munro told El Reg.

In addition, the tablet enabled Android Debug Bridge, aka "developer mode," by default. This security weakness allowed the Pen Test Partners team to easily gain root access to a vulnerable Innotab tablet.

Finally, Pen Test Partners found a microSD card on the motherboard, which was glued on but that took just seconds to pry off.

The easily removable memory card housed filesystem and user data. "Other than making for another easy route to extract sensitive data, that's also asking for reliability trouble down the line," Munro warned. ®


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