Our Blog

Our news

All you need to know

Honey, I’m home!! – Hacking Z-Wave & other Black Hat news

Reading time ~7 min

You’ve probably never thought of this, but the home automation market in the US was worth approximately $3.2 billion in 2010 and is expected to exceed $5.5 billion in 2016.

Under the hood, the Zigbee and Z-wave wireless communication protocols are the most common used RF technology in home automation systems. Zigbee is based on an open specification (IEEE 802.15.4) and has been the subject of several academic and practical security researches. Z-wave is a proprietary wireless protocol that works in the Industrial, Scientific and Medical radio band (ISM). It transmits on the 868.42 MHz (Europe) and 908.42MHz (United States) frequencies designed for low-bandwidth data communications in embedded devices such as security sensors, alarms and home automation control panels.

Unlike Zigbee, almost no public security research has been done on the Z-Wave protocol except once during a DefCon 2011 talk when the presenter pointed to the possibility of capturing the AES key exchange … until now. Our Black Hat USA 2013 talk explores the question of Z-Wave protocol security and show how the Z-Wave protocol can be subjected to attacks.

The talk is being presented by Behrang Fouladi a Principal Security Researcher at SensePost, with some help on the hardware side from our friend Sahand Ghanoun. Behrang is one of our most senior and most respected analysts. He loves poetry, movies with Owen Wilson, snowboarding and long walks on the beach. Wait – no – that’s me. Behrang’s the guy who lives in London and has a Masters from Royal Holloway. He’s also the guy who figured how to clone the SecureID software token.

Amazingly, this is the 11th time we’ve presented at Black Hat Las Vegas. We try and keep track of our talks and papers at conferences  on our research services site, but for your reading convenience, here’s a summary of our Black Hat talks over the last decade:

2002: Setiri : Advances in trojan technology (Roelof Temmingh)

Setiri was the first publicized trojan to implement the concept of using a web browser to communicate with its controller and caused a stir when we presented it in 2002. We were also very pleased when it got referenced by in a 2004 book by Ed Skoudis.

2003: Putting the tea back into cyber terrorism (Charl van der Walt, Roelof Temmingh and Haroon Meer)

A paper about targeted, effective, automated attacks that could be used in countrywide cyber terrorism. A worm that targets internal networks was also discussed as an example of such an attack. In some ways, the thinking in this talk eventually lead to the creation of Maltego.

2004: When the tables turn (Charl van der WaltRoelof Temmingh and Haroon Meer)

This paper presented some of the earliest ideas on offensive strike-back as a network defence methodology, which later found their way into Neil Wyler‘s 2005 book “Aggressive Network Self-Defence“.

2005: Assessment automation (Roelof Temmingh)

Our thinking around pentest automation, and in particular footprinting and link analyses was further expanded upon. Here we also released the first version of our automated footprinting tool – “Bidiblah“.

2006: A tail of two proxies (Roelof Temmingh and Haroon Meer)

In this talk we literally did introduce two proxy tools. The first was “Suru‘, our HTTP MITM proxy and a then-contender to the @stake Web Proxy. Although Suru has long since been bypassed by excellent tools like “Burp Proxy” it introduced a number of exciting new concepts, including trivial fuzzing, token correlation and background directory brute-forcing. Further improvements included timing analysis and indexable directory checks. These were not available in other commercial proxies at the time, hence our need to write our own.

Another pioneering MITM proxy – WebScarab from OWASP – also shifted thinking at the time. It was originally written by Rogan Dawes, our very own pentest team leader.

The second proxy we introduced operated at the TCP layer, leveraging off the very excellent Scappy packet manipulation program. We never took that any further, however.

2007: It’s all about timing (Haroon Meer and Marco Slaviero)

This was one of my favourite SensePost talks. It kicked off a series of research projects concentrating on timing-based inference attacks against all kinds of technologies and introduced a weaponized timing-based data exfiltration attack in the form of our Squeeza SQL Injection exploitation tool (you probably have to be South African to get the joke). This was also the first talk in which we Invented Our Own Acronym.

2008: Pushing a camel through the eye of a needle (Haroon MeerMarco Slaviero & Glenn Wilkinson)

In this talk we expanded on our ideas of using timing as a vector for data extraction in so-called ‘hostile’ environments. We also introduced our ‘reDuh‘ TCP-over-HTTP tunnelling tool. reDuh is a tool that can be used to create a TCP circuit through validly formed HTTP requests. Essentially this means that if we can upload a JSP/PHP/ASP page onto a compromised server, we can connect to hosts behind that server trivially. We also demonstrated how reDuh could be implemented under OLE right inside a compromised SQL 2005 server, even without ‘sa’ privileges.

2009: Clobbering the cloud (Haroon MeerMarco Slaviero and Nicholas Arvanitis)

Yup, we did cloud before cloud was cool. This was a presentation about security in the cloud. Cloud security issues such as privacy, monoculture and vendor lock-in are discussed. The cloud offerings from Amazon, Salesforce and Apple as well as their security were examined. We got an email from Steve “Woz” Wozniak, we quoted Dan Geer and we had a photo of Dino Daizovi. We built an HTTP brute-forcer on Force.com and (best of all) we hacked Apple using an iPhone.

2010: Cache on delivery (Marco Slaviero)

This was a presentation about mining information from memcached. We introduced go-derper.rb, a tool we developed  for hacking memcached servers and gave a few examples, including a sexy hack of bps.org. It seemed like people weren’t getting our point at first, but later the penny dropped and we’ve to-date had almost 50,000 hits on the presentation on Slideshare.

2011: Sour pickles (Marco Slaviero)

Python’s Pickle module provides a known capability for running arbitrary Python functions and, by extension, permitting remote code execution; however there is no public Pickle exploitation guide and published exploits are simple examples only. In this paper we described the Pickle environment, outline hurdles facing a shellcoder and provide guidelines for writing Pickle shellcode. A brief survey of public Python code was undertaken to establish the prevalence of the vulnerability, and a shellcode generator and Pickle mangler were written. Output from the paper included helpful guidelines and templates for shellcode writing, tools for Pickle hacking and a shellcode library.We also wrote a very fancy paper about it all

We never presented at Black Hat USA in 2012, although we did do some very cool work in that year.

For this year’s show we’ll back on the podium with Behrang’s talk, as well an entire suite of excellent training courses. To meet the likes of Behrang and the rest of our team please consider one of our courses. We need all the support we can get and we’re pretty convinced you won’t be disappointed.

See you in Vegas!