Security flaws in a popular smart home hub let hackers unlock front doors

What is the point of smart locks when they can be hacked? Smart locks have been under the radar for vulnerability because of their connection to the internet. This makes them less secure than their traditional counterparts.

Security researchers Chase Dardaman and Jason Wheeler managed to hack one of the popular Zipato smart hubs. In all, they found three security flaws that when combined together, could be used to unlock the door. They started digging into ZipaMicro, a smart home hub developed by Zipato. They could access the hub’s private SSH key for the highest level -”root” from the memory card on the device. Anyone with this private key can access the lock without the password. Dardaman and Wheeler also found out that this private SSH key was hardcoded in every hub. This puts all of their customers who have bought this hub into danger.

By using this private key, the researchers were able to obtain a list of scrambled passwords to access the hub. They determined that the smart hub uses a “pass-the-hash” authentication system. By using this jumbled password instead of plain text password, they were able to trick the device and unlock the door.

For an attacker to attack any hub, all it needs a few lines of code to open or close the smart lock. The researchers were able to lock and unlock the door, suggesting its vulnerability.

Zipato claims that it has 112,000 devices in 20,000 households, but is unaware of the exact number of vulnerable hubs. They fixed the faults within a few weeks of receiving the researchers’ discovery.

Zipato’s chief executive Sebastian Popovic confirmed that each smart hub now comes with a unique private SSH key and other security developments. Zipato has discontinued the ZipaMicro hub since then. They are also likely to bring more analysis to smart home tech by hackers and security researchers alike.

“We want to show that there is a risk to this kind of tech, and apartment buildings or even individual consumers need to know that these are not necessarily safer than a traditional door lock,” said Dardaman.