Vulnerability Management

Black Hat: Hidden controls open 2 billion mobile devices to exploitation

Hidden controls found in a wide array of devices — from smartphones and laptops to embedded M2M devices and some cars — could be leveraged by attackers for widescale cellular exploitation, researchers from Accuvant Labs told a packed house Wednesday at the 2014 Black Hat conference in Las Vegas.

The OMA-DM protocol, originally developed by the The SyncML Initiative, is an “amalgam” of standards, Accuvant's Mathew Solnik said, now used by carriers to do provisioning, accommodate software updates and manage faults and otherwise manage mobile devices. “The carrier requirements determine functionality,” noted Solnik.

Most devices use software and services for mobile software management provided by Red Bend Software, Solnik pointed out.  

“Basically it's provided as a binary blob to all manufacturers,” he explained.

And indeed, Red Bend's website notes that it's the choice for “more than 100 leading manufacturers,” accounting for more than two billion devices, who used the company's “software and services for firmware over-the-air (FOTA) updating, application management, device management, device analytics and mobile virtualization.”

But the OMA-DM protocol gives rise to some core vulnerabilities, among them a vulnerability in authentication, which could allow hackers to gain control of mobile devices. 

“A shared secret token is the secret sauce to the password,” said Solnick. “With knowledge of the IMEI/MEID [device identifier] and the ‘secret' an attacker can control the OMA-DM device.”

Accuvant's Marc Blanchou explained that would-be attackers can use a WAP push, sending a TXT message to a device via the wireless application protocol, can access the full functionality of a device. Once access is gained, hackers can abuse the standard in a number of ways, for example, executing persistent man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks.

The two researchers uncovered the OMA-DM's vulnerabilities by simulating the cellular environment, reverse engineering embedded baseband and application space code and deconstructed OTA communications then implemented their own code.

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