News / USA

US Government Warns of Hack Threat to Network Gear

x
Reuters
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security urged computer users on Tuesday to disable a common networking technology feature, after researchers warned that hackers could exploit flaws to gain access to tens of millions of vulnerable devices.
       
The U.S. government's Computer Emergency Readiness Team, on its website, advised consumers and businesses to disable a feature known as Universal Plug and Play or UPnP, and some other related features that make devices from computers to printers accessible over the open Internet.
       
UPnP, a communications protocol, is designed to let networks identify and communicate with equipment, reducing the amount of work it takes to set up networks. Dave Marcus, chief architect of advanced research and threat intelligence with Intel's McAfee unit, said hackers would have a ``field day'' once the vulnerability in network devices is exposed.
       
"Historically, these are amongst the last to be updated and protected properly which makes them a gold mine for potential abuse and exploitation,'' said Marcus, who advises government agencies and corporations on protections against sophisticated attacks.
       
Disabling UPnP once networks have already been set up, will have little impact on the operation of the devices.
       
The new security bugs were initially brought to the attention of the government by computer security company Rapid7, in Boston, which released a report on the problem on Tuesday.

The company said it discovered between 40 million and 50 million devices that were vulnerable to attack due to three separate sets of problems that the firm's researchers have identified with the UPnP standard.
       
The flaws could allow hackers to access confidential files, steal passwords, take full control over PCs as well as remotely access devices such as webcams, printers and security systems, according to Rapid7.
    
Rapid7 has alerted electronics makers about the problem through the CERT Coordination Center, a group at the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute that helps researchers report vulnerabilities to affected companies.
      
"This is the most pervasive bug I've ever seen,'' said HD Moore, chief technology officer for Rapid7. He discussed the research with Reuters late on Monday.
       
CERT in turn has tried to contact the more than 200 companies whose products Rapid7 have identified as being vulnerable to attack, including Belkin, D-Link, Cisco Systems Inc's Linksys division and Netgear.

Linksys said it is aware of the problem. ``We recommend Linksys customers visit our website to understand if their home router is affected, and learn how to disable UPnP through the user interface to avoid being impacted,'' Linksys said in a statement.
       
Belkin, D-Link and Netgear did not respond to requests for comment.

Chris Wysopal, chief technology officer of security software firm Veracode, said he believed that publication of Rapid7's findings would draw widespread attention to the still emerging area of UPnP security, prompting other security researchers to search for more bugs in UPnP.
       
"This definitely falls into the scary category,'' said Wysopal, who reviewed Rapid7's findings ahead of their publication. "There is going to be a lot more research on this. And the follow-on research could be a lot scarier.''
       
Andres Andreu, chief architect at networking security company Bayshore Networks said they expect an increase in cybercrime as hackers begin to figure out ways to take advantage of the newly identified vulnerabilities.
       
"Simple targets such as home routers now become targets of greater interest,'' he said.

Taking Control
       
Moore said that there were bugs in most of the devices that Rapid7 tested and that device manufacturers will need to release software updates to remedy the problems.
       
He said that was unlikely to happen quickly.
       
In the meantime, he advised computer users to quickly use a free tool released by Rapid7 to identify vulnerable gear, then disable the UPnP functionality in that equipment.
       
Moore said hackers have not widely exploited the UPnP vulnerabilities to launch attacks, but both Moore and Wysopal expected they may start to do so after the findings are publicized.
       
Still, Moore said he decided to disclose the flaws in a bid to pressure equipment makers to fix the bugs and generally pay more attention to security.
       
People who own devices with UPnP enabled may not be aware of it because new routers, printers, media servers, Web cameras, storage drives and ``smart'' or Web-connected TVs are often shipped with that functionality turned on by default.
       
"You can't stay silent about something like this,'' he said. "These devices seem to have had the same level of core security for decades. Nobody seems to really care about them.''

Veracode's Wysopal said that some hackers have likely already exploited the flaws to launch attacks, but in relatively small numbers, choosing victims one at a time.
       
"If they are going after executives and government officials, then they will probably look for their home networks and exploit this vulnerability,'' he said.
       
Rapid7 has released a tool to help identify those devices on its website.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More