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MWC: Biohackers threaten prosthetic hands

Research released by Kaspersky Lab at Mobile World Congress uncovers vulnerabilities in software for digital prosthetic hands.

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Kaspersky Lab experts have investigated an experimental cloud infrastructure for advanced bionic prostheses and have identified security issues that could enable a third party to access, manipulate, steal, or delete the private data of device users. The findings were shared with manufacturer Motorica, a Russian start-up that makes bionic upper limb prostheses to assist people with disabilities, allowing them to address the security issues.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is no longer only about connected watches or smart homes, but about highly complex and increasingly automated ecosystems. This includes connected technologies for healthcare. In the future, such technologies could shift away from being purely support devices, to becoming mainstream and used by consumers keen to extend the capabilities of the human body. Therefore, it is critical that manufacturers investigate and address any existing or potential security risks in current products, as well as their supporting infrastructure.

Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT researchers have undertaken a cybersecurity assessment of a test software solution for a digital prosthetic hand, developed by Motorica. The solution itself is a remote cloud system, providing an interface for monitoring the status of registered biomechanical devices. It also gives other developers an existing toolset for analysis of the technical condition of devices like smart wheelchairs, artificial hands and prosthetic feet.

The initial research identified several security issues in the software. These included an insecure HTTP connection, incorrect account operations, and insufficient input validation.

When in use, the prosthetic hand transmits data to the cloud system. Due to these security gaps, an attacker could:

  • Gain access to information held in the cloud about all connected accounts, including logins and passwords in plaintext for all the prosthetic devices and their administrators
  • Manipulate, add, or delete such information
  • Add or delete their own users, including users with administrator rights

Vladimir Dashchenko, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT, said: “Motorica is a high-technology, trusted and socially responsible company, focused on addressing the challenges faced by people with physical impairment. As the company prepares for growth, we wanted to help it ensure the right security measures were in place. The results of our analysis are a good reminder that security needs to be built-in to new technologies from the very start. We hope that other developers of advanced connected devices will want to collaborate with the security industry to understand and address device and system security issues and treat the security of devices as an integral and essential part of development.”

“New technologies are bringing us to a new world in terms of bionic assisting devices,” said Ilya Chekh, CEO at Motorica. “It is now of crucial importance for the developers of such technologies to collaborate with cybersecurity solution vendors. That will allow us to make even theoretical cases of attacks on the human body impossible.”

For manufacturers of bionic devices and other smart technologies, Kaspersky Lab recommends the following security measures:

  • Review threat models and vulnerability classifications for relevant web-based and IoT technologies, provided by industry experts, such as OWASP IoT Project.
  • Introduce secure software development practices based on a proper lifecycle. To evaluate existing software security practices, use a systematic approach like OWASP OpenSAMM.
  • Establish a procedure for obtaining information on relevant threats and vulnerabilities to ensure proper and timely response to any incidents.- Regularly update operating systems, application and device software, and security solutions.
  • Implement cybersecurity solutions designed to analyze network traffic, detect and prevent network attacks – at the boundary of the enterprise network and at the boundary of the OT network.
  • Use a security solution with machine learning anomaly detection (MLAD) technology to reveal deviations in IoT device behaviour — for early detection of attack, failure or damage of the device.

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Huge appetite for foldable phones – when prices fall

Samsung, Huawei and Motorola have all shown their cards, but consumers are concerned about durability, size, and enhanced use cases, according to Strategy Analytics

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Foldable devices are a long-awaited disrupter in the smartphone market, exciting leading-edge early adopters keen for a bold new type of device. But the acceptance of foldable devices by mainstream segments will depend on the extent to which the current barriers to adoption are addressed.

Major brands have been throwing their foldable bets into the hat to see what the market wants from a foldable, namely how big the screens should be and how the devices should fold. Samsung and Huawei have both designed devices that unfold from smartphones to tablets, each with their own method of how the devices go about folding. Motorola has recently designed a smartphone that folds in half, and it resembles a flip phone.

Assessing consumer desire for foldable smartphones, a new report from the User Experience Strategies group at Strategy Analytics has found that the perceived value of the foldable form does not outweigh the added cost.

Key report findings include:

  • The idea of having a larger-displayed smartphone in a portable size is perceived as valuable to the vast majority of consumers in the UK and the US. But, willingness to pay extra for a foldable device does not align with the desire to purchase one. Manufacturers must understand that there will be low sell-through until costs come down.
  • But as the acceptance for traditional smartphone display sizes continues to increase, so does the imposed friction of trying to use them one-handed. Unless a foldable phone has a wider folded state, entering text when closed is too cumbersome, forcing users to utilize two hands to enter text, when in the opened state.
  • Use cases need to be adequately demonstrated for consumers to fully understand and appreciate the potential for a foldable phone, though their priorities seemed fixed on promoting ‘two devices in one’ equaling a better video viewing experience. Identification and promotion of meaningful new use cases will be vital to success.

Christopher Dodge, Associate Director, UXIP and report author said: “As multitasking will look to be a core selling point for foldable phones, it is imperative that the execution be simplified and intuitive. Our data suggests there are a lot of uncertainties that come with foldable phone ownership, stemming mainly from concerns with durability and size, in addition to concerns over enhanced use cases.

“But our data also shows that when the consumers are able to use a foldable phone in hand, there is a solid reduction of doubt and concern about the concept. This means that the in-store experience may more important than ever in driving awareness, capabilities, and potential use cases.”

Said Paul Brown, Director, UXIP: “The big question is whether the perceived value will outweigh the added cost; and the initial response from consumers is ‘no.’ The ability for foldable displays to resolve real consumer pain-points is, in our view critical to whether these devices will become a niche segment of the smartphone market or the dominant form-factor of the future. Until costs come down, these devices will not take off.”

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New exploit exposes credit cards on mobile phones

Check Point Security has found that handsets using Qualcomm chipsets that hold credit and debit card credentials are at risk of a new exploit.

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Now it’s more important than ever to update your phone.
Check Point security has found a vulnerability in mobile devices that run Android, which allows credit card details to be accessed by hackers.

Mobile operating systems like Android offer a Rich Execution Environment (REE), providing a hugely extensive and versatile runtime environment, which allows apps to run on the device. However, while bringing flexibility and capability, REE leaves devices vulnerable to a wide range of security threats. A Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) is designed to reside alongside the REE and provide a safe area on the device to protect assets and to execute trusted code. Qualcomm makes use of a secure virtual processor, which is often referred to as the “secure world”, in comparison to the “non-secure world”, where REE resides. 

But Check Point “fuzzed” a “hole” into this secure world 

In a 4-month research project, Check Point researchers attempted and succeeded to reverse Qualcomm’s “Secure World” operating system. Check Point researchers leveraged a “fuzzing” technique to expose the hole. Fuzz testing (fuzzing) is a quality assurance technique used to discover coding errors and security loopholes in software, operating systems or networks. It involves inputting massive amounts of random data, called fuzz, to the test subject in an attempt to make it crash.

Check Point implemented a custom-made fuzzing tool, which tested trusted code on Samsung, LG, and Motorola devices. Through fuzzing, Check Point found 4 vulnerabilities in trusted code implemented by Samsung (including S10), 1 in Motorola, 1 in LG, but all code sourced by Qualcomm itself. To address the vulnerability, the runtime of Android needs to be protected from both attackers and users. This is typically achieved by moving the secure storage software to a hardware-supported TEE.

Check Point Research disclosed its findings directly to the companies and gave them time to patch vulnerabilities. Samsung patched three vulnerabilities and LG patched one. Motorola and Qualcomm responded, but have yet to provide a patch, and there is no confirmation of a release date yet.

Check Point Research has urged mobile phone users to stay vigilant and check their credit and debit card providers for any unusual activity. In the meantime, they are working with the vendors mentioned to issue patches.

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