Smart home mobile apps vulnerable to takeover

Researchers find that apps to control devices in the home could be easily hacked

An examination of a number of mobile apps to control smart home devices has discovered that the security in place is not good enough to prevent hackers from taking control.

According to research carried out by IT security firm Pradeo Security Systems, 80% of tested applications carry vulnerabilities, with an average of 15 per application. Moreover, 15% of them can lead to a man-in-the-middle attack. Researchers said this was of particular concern as this can lead to an object takeover by a cybercriminal.

The researchers looked at 100 IoT mobile applications (thermostat, electrical blinds, remote control, baby phone) available on Google Play and App Store.

The researchers said that while official stores applications rarely include a malware but they are not necessarily safe. They added that apps analysed by the company are sending the data they handle to 17 servers in average, and 8% of them are transmitting the information to uncertified servers.

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"Among these, some have expired and are available for sale. Anyone buying them could access all the data they receive," said Vivian Raoul, CTO of Pradeo Security Systems.

The research also found that 90% of applications leak the data they manipulate. Among these are application file content (81%), hardware information (device manufacturer, commercial name, battery status) (73%), device information (OS version number) (73%).

Raoul said that his firm has notified the IoT device manufacturers about the security problems they are exposed to.

While the number of smart home apps and devices are expanding with more developers getting in on the action, there's clearly a need for security to be seriously considered, otherwise homes and offices could end up with a deluge of potential vulnerabilities on their networks. 

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