The data protocols of SmartHomes are the FBI’s wet dream. Why? Because they have no security design. Take ZigBee for example. ZigBee is one of the most widespread communication standards used in the Internet of Things and especially in the area of smart homes. If you have for example a smart light bulb at home, the chance is very high that you are actually using ZigBee by yourself. Popular lighting applications such as Philips Hue or Osram Lightify and also popular smart home systems such as SmartThings or Googles OnHub are based on ZigBee.
ZigBee provides also security services for key establishment, key transport, frame protection and device management that are based on established cryptographic algorithms. So a ZigBee home automation network with applied security is secure and the smart home communication is protected?
No, definitely not. Due to “requirements” on interoperability and compatibility as well as the application of ancient security concepts it is possible to compromise ZigBee networks and take over control of all included devices. For example it is easily possible for an external to get control over every smart light bulb that supports the ZigBee Light Link profile. Also the initial key transport is done in an unsecured way. It is even required by the standard to support this weak key transport. On top of that another vulnerability allows third parties to request secret key material without any authentication and therefore takeover the whole network as well as all connected ZigBee devices. Together with shortfalls and limitations in the security caused by the manufacturers itself the risk to this last tier communication standard can be considered as highly critical.
Have a look at Florian Eichelberger’s and Tobias Zillner’s presentation held at DeepSec 2015.
The Internet of Things will keep security researchers busy for decades. Or longer.