Hacking a smart lightbulb system

The phenomenon of the Internet of Things (IoT) is positively influencing our lives by augmenting our spaces with intelligent and connected devices. Examples of these devices include lightbulbs, motion sensors, door locks, video cameras, thermostats, and power outlets.

By 2022, the average household with two teenage children will own roughly 50 such Internet connected devices, according to estimates by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development. Our society is starting to increasingly depend upon IoT devices to promote automation and increase our well being. As such, it is important that we begin a dialogue on how we can securely enable the upcoming technology.

Nitesh Dhanjani conducted research on the Philips hue lighting system. The hue personal wireless system is available for purchase from the Apple Store and other outlets. Out of the box, the system comprises of wireless LED light bulbs and a wireless bridge. The light bulbs can be configured to any of 16 million colors.

He released a paper that discusses top threats associated with the product in addition to a detailed analysis of how the system works.

A vulnerability can be used by malware on an infected machine on the user’s internal network to cause a sustained blackout. A demonstration of this vulnerability can be seen in the video below:

The goals of the research:

  • Lighting is critical to physical security. Smart lightbulb systems are likely to be deployed in current and new residential and corporate constructions. An abuse case such as the ability of an intruder to remotely shut off lighting in locations such as hospitals and other public venues can result in serious consequences.
  • The system is easily available in the marketplace and is one of the more popular self installable wireless light bulb solutions.
  • The architecture employs a mix of network protocols and application interfaces that is interesting to evaluate from a design perspective. It is likely that competing products will deploy similar interfaces thereby inheriting abuse cases.

The hue system is a wonderfully innovative product. It is therefore important is to understand how it works and to ultimately push forward the secure enablement of similar IoT products.

More about

Don't miss