Time to patch your lightbulb? Researchers demonstrate Philips Hue exploit

First the lightbulb. Then the controller. Then your internal network.


Researchers at Check Point have demonstrated how to infect a network with malware via a simple IoT device, a Philips Hue smart lightbulb.

This is an exercise in escalation. There are a couple of vulnerabilities involved. One is CVE-2020-6007 which is a buffer overflow in the Philips Hue Bridge controller firmware, in the part of the software that adds new devices to the controller. The other is based on 2016 research on how to persuade a Hue lightbulb to change its affinity from one controller to another. In order to pull this off, you need a Zigbee transmitter in close proximity to the target (Zigbee is the mesh-networking standard used by the Hue system).

The attack described by Check Point involves first taking over the lamp, updating it with malicious firmware, and then making it misbehave. The user then follows the procedure to reset the lamp by removing it and then re-adding to their Hue controller. This triggers the buffer overflow vulnerability via the specially crafted firmware, executing malware on the Hue Bridge. The bridge is connected to the local TCP/IP network, so the malware can now look for computers to compromise. In the example, the EternalBlue exploit is successfully used against a Windows PC.

Escalating the attack to compromise a Windows PC

Escalating the attack to compromise a Windows PC

Philips has already made a patch available for its Hue Bridge, but Check Point said it was postponing "the release of the full technical details" to give more time for it to be downloaded and installed on affected products. There is an auto-update mechanism but it may not always be enabled.

Although a colourful attack, the requirement to first attack a lightbulb over Zigbee sounds like it will limit its potential impact in most homes. The 2016 security paper envisaged a drone-based attack.

"By flying such a drone in a zig-zag pattern high over a city, an attacker can disable all the Philips Hue smart lamps in city centers within a few minutes," it said. Philips, however, responded with an update that reduces infection range to 1m or less, making the drone idea ineffective. It is not possible to assess the risk fully until more details are published.

The real purpose of Check Point's post is to sell businesses on the idea of IoT security using its "on-device runtime protection," though the prospect of having to maintain anti-malware agents on every smart lightbulb is not an appealing one.

What may give pause for thought, though, is that the Philips Hue devices are described as "very hard targets for finding and exploiting software vulnerabilities" by the 2016 researchers, but still proved to be vulnerable. There are no doubt plenty of easier targets out there, bearing in mind the proliferation of low-cost IoT devices like cameras and home appliances. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022