Broadband provider EE is to issue a patch for customers using its Brightbox 1 and 2 home routers after a researcher discovered a flaw that could allow attackers to gain access to the device’s admin and user broadband accounts.
In a blog, security researcher Scott Helme described his discovery that a file on the Brightbox, cgi_status_js, contained sensitive data such as the ISP user credentials and even the WPA keys for every Wi-Fi SSID used by the device, in plain text.
Unfortunately, this file was accessible not only to the admin account but to any client connected to the device, including someone using the guest account over Wi-Fi. The only requirement would be that the attacker had access to the device first, from which point they would be able to modify many settings.
Helme also discovered a more complicated way for a hacker to work out the device’s admin login password by using a brute force attack after locating its MD5 hash.
Armed with these details, an attacker could potentially gain a launchpad to take over the home user’s broadband account by phishing additional account details before contacting EE, Helme believed.
“The only thing I was asked when dialling through to the cancellation team was my name, my telephone number and the 2nd and 4th character of my password,” said Helme. “In most instances obtaining the name of the account holder and the telephone number could be done very easily with a little social engineering.”
EE responded to this by saying: "to access an account, a caller must verify their identity to one of our customer service agents. An email or username, which is the only information a third party could access, is not accepted as an account identifier."
"We are aware of Mr Helme's article. As is the case for all home broadband customers, regardless of their provider, it is recommend they only give network access to people they trust. Customers should also be suspicious of any unsolicited emails and web pages, and keep their security software up to date,” EE added in a formal statement.
“We treat all security matters seriously, and while no personal data will be compromised by the device itself, we would like to reassure customers that we are working on a service update which we plan to issue shortly, and which will remotely and automatically update customers’ Brightboxes with enhanced security protection.”
The number of devices that are at risk of this attack could be as many as 700,000 but a BBC report quoting EE put the number at around 350,000.
The attack isn’t plain sailing for an attacker. As well as researching the flaws as Helme did they would, initially, need to have legitimate access to the device. In addition, some of the attack relies on social engineering, a weakness in any device or account.
It’s also been pointed out that many home routers are vulnerable to attack simply because they either have default passwords and user names that are never changed (an older problem) or have apparently random ones unique to each device which turn out not to be as random as they appear.
Flaws in home routers are far from a new issue and have dogged the sector for years. Last October security firm Tripwire revealed that it had discovered vulnerabilities in products from Netgear and D-Link.
A year ago, Rapid 7 discovered that millions of consumer devices such as printers, webcams, and routers using the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) protocol were full of flaws that could compromise their security.