83 million IoT devices at risk of hacking

The vulnerability could enable threat actors to listen in on private conversations and watch live video streams

A concept visualising IoT security

At least 83 million Internet of Things (IoT) devices around the world could be at risk of hacking, potentially enabling threat actors to listen in on private conversations and watch live video streams from baby monitors and smart cameras.

That's according to new findings from Mandiant, a cyber security company and subsidiary of FireEye.

Mandiant security researchers Jake Valletta, Erik Barzdukas, and Dillon Franke discovered a vulnerability that affects IoT devices that use the Kalay network platform manufactured by Taiwanese IoT and M2M (machine-to-machine) solutions provider ThroughTek.

Tracked as CVE-2021-28372, the vulnerability affects a core component of the Kalay platform, allowing hackers to “listen to live audio, watch real-time video data, and compromise device credentials for further attacks based on exposed device functionality”, according to the researchers.

Although Mandiant was not able to pinpoint the affected devices, its researchers noted that ThroughTek has at least 83 million active devices as well as an estimated 1.1 billion monthly connections on its Kalay platform, with all of them potentially being exposed to hackers.

Mandiant disclosed the vulnerability to the US’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which has published an advisory report on the issue that recommends that users disconnect their ThroughTek devices from the internet, isolate them from the business networks, and to only connect to devices through virtual private networks (VPN).

A spokesperson for the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) told IT Pro that it is “aware of this vulnerability”, adding that ThroughTek “has released an update to fix the issue”.

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“Simply using the platform does not automatically make you vulnerable to real-world impact, as additional information that is hard to guess is needed to exploit the vulnerability in an individual device successfully. To maximise protection, the NCSC recommends individuals keep their software up to date by installing the latest vendor updates as soon as practicable,” said the NCSC spokesperson.

The discovery of CVE-2021-28372 by Mandiant comes two months after Nozomi Networks researchers discovered a similar flaw affecting ThroughTek’s P2P SDK, which is used to provide remote access to audio or video streams over the internet.

The UK government is working on a new law that will force IoT device manufacturers to meet minimum security requirements and banning them from setting easy-to-hack passwords such as ‘admin’ or ‘password’. In April, it was announced that the legislation would also include smartphones.

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