*This blog is originally from August 2018 and was updated April 2019*
From connected baby monitors to smart speakers — IoT devices are becoming commonplace in modern homes. Their convenience and ease of use make them seem like the perfect gadgets for the whole family. However, users can be prone to putting basic security hygiene on the backburner when they get a shiny new IoT toy, such as applying security updates, using complex passwords for home networks and devices, and isolating critical devices or networks from IoT. Additionally, IoT devices’ poor security standards make them conveniently flawed for someone else: cybercriminals, as hackers are constantly tracking flaws which they can weaponize. When a new IoT device is put on the market, these criminals have a new opportunity to expose the device’s weaknesses and access user networks. As a matter of fact, our McAfee Labs Advanced Threat Research team uncovered a flaw in one of these IoT devices: the Wemo Insight Smart Plug, which is a Wi-Fi–connected electric outlet.
Once our research team figured out how exactly the device was vulnerable, they leveraged the flaw to test out a few types of cyberattacks. The team soon discovered an attacker could leverage this vulnerability to turn off or overload the switch, which could overheat circuits or turn a home’s power off. What’s more – this smart plug, like many vulnerable IoT devices, creates a gateway for potential hackers to compromise an entire home Wi-Fi network. In fact, using the Wemo as a sort of “middleman,” our team leveraged this open hole in the network to power a smart TV on and off, which was just one of the many things that could’ve been possibly done.
And as of April 2019, the potential of a threat born from this vulnerability seems as possible as ever. Our ATR team even has reason to believe that cybercriminals already have or are currently working on incorporating the unpatched Wemo Insight vulnerability into IoT malware. IoT malware is enticing for cybercriminals, as these devices are often lacking in their security features. With companies competing to get their versions of the latest IoT device on the market, important cybersecurity features tend to fall by the wayside. This leaves cybercriminals with plenty of opportunities to expose device flaws right off the bat, creating more sophisticated cyberattacks that evolve with the latest IoT trends.
Now, our researchers have reported this vulnerability to Belkin, and, almost a year after initial disclosure, are awaiting a follow-up. However, regardless if you’re a Wemo user or not, it’s still important you take proactive security steps to safeguard all your IoT devices. Start by following these tips:
- Keep security top of mind when buying an IoT device. When you’re thinking of making your next IoT purchase, make sure to do your research first. Start by looking up the device in question’s security standards. A simple Google search on the product, as well as the manufacturer, will often do the trick.
- Change default passwords and do an update right away. If you purchase a connected device, be sure to first and foremost change the default password. Default manufacturer passwords are rather easy for criminals to crack. Also, your device’s software will need to be updated at some point. In a lot of cases, devices will have updates waiting from them as soon as they’re taken out of the box. The first time you power up your device, you should check to see if there are any updates or patches from the manufacturer.
- Keep your firmware up-to-date. Manufacturers often release software updates to protect against these potential vulnerabilities. Set your device to auto-update, if you can, so you always have the latest software. Otherwise, just remember to consistently update your firmware whenever an update is available.
- Secure your home’s internet at the source. These smart home devices must connect to a home Wi-Fi network in order to run. If they’re vulnerable, they could expose your network as a result. Since it can be challenging to lock down all the IoT devices in a home, utilize a solution like McAfee Secure Home Platform to provide protection at the router-level.