How a Security Researcher Took Over a Hotel’s IoT Devices

“The moment you network IoT and hand over control to third parties, you may also give individuals the keys to a digital kingdom — and the ability to cause mischief, or worse,” writes ZDNet.

For example, at a hotel where guests control the devices in their room with an iPod Touch… Speaking at Black Hat USA, Las Vegas, security consultant Kya Supa from LEXFO explained how a chain of security weaknesses were combined and exploited to gain control of rooms at a capsule hotel, a budget-friendly type of hotel offering extremely small — and, therefore, cozy — spaces to guests, who are stacked side-by-side… A neighbor, “Bob,” kept waking Supa up by making loud phone calls in the early hours of the morning. While Bob had agreed to keep it down, he did not keep his promise — and the researcher set to work since he needed his sleep, especially during his vacation. The first thing Supa did was to explore his room, finding an emergency light installed for safety reasons; a Nasnos automaton center for use in controlling products in case the iPod Touch was lost; an electric motor used to manage the incline of the capsule’s bed; and a Nasnos router, hidden in the wall.

If you connected to the router via a smartphone, it was then possible to control other devices on the network, and this was the setup the hotel chose to use… Supa found that two networks were connected — the hotel Wi-Fi and the router. To retrieve the router key, Supa targeted WEP, a protocol that has been known to be weak for years. Access points, each being one of the bedrooms, were found. Supa inspected the traffic and found weak credentials in place — “123” — and you can guess the rest…

By using an Android smartphone, the iPod Touch, and a laptop, the researcher created a Man-in-The-Middle (MiTM) architecture and inspected the network traffic. No encryption was found and he created a simple program to tamper with these connections, allowing the researcher to seize control of his bedroom through his laptop… Now that he could “control every bedroom,” and Bob was still there, Supa then tampered with the lights of different bedrooms until he found the right one. He created a script that, every two hours, would change the bed into a sofa and turn the lights on and off. The script was launched at midnight. We can probably assume Bob did not enjoy his stay.

“I hope he will be more respectful in the future,” Supa commented.