Phantom Device Attack: Uncovering the Security Implications of the Interactions among Devices, IoT Cloud, and Mobile Apps

(Submitted on 8 Nov 2018)

Smart home connects tens of home devices into the Internet, running a smart algorithm in the cloud that sends remote commands to the devices. While bringing unprecedented convenience, accessibility, and efficiency, it also introduces safety hazards to users. Prior research studied smart home security from various aspects. However, we found that the complexity of the interactions among the participating entities (device, IoT cloud, and mobile app) has not yet been systematically investigated. In this work, we conducted an in-depth analysis to four widely used smart home solutions. Combining firmware reverse-engineering, network traffic interception, and black-box testing, we distill the general state transitions representing the complex interactions among the three entities. Based on the state machine, we reveal several vulnerabilities that lead to unexpected state transitions. While these minor security flaws appear to be irrelevant, we show that combining them in a surprising way poses serious security or privacy hazards to smart home users. To this end, five concrete attacks are constructed and illustrated. We also discuss the implications of the disclosed attacks in the context of business competition. Finally, we propose some general design suggestions for building a more secure smart home solution.

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