Why would someone hack your ‘thing’

This is a follow up to an earlier blog post (Internet of things heading for a trainwreck), where I commented on the security of the internet of thing. An interesting follow up article on this is: ‘Things’ on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece. It’s highly unlikely that any of those 25 vulnerabilities will be patched.

But I digress, the question is, why would someone hack your ‘thing’?

Reason 1: Because it is there

Someone might not be targeting your thing or even your class of thing when they take control. Your thing might be share vulnerabilities with someone that is being targeted. For example the underlying operating system of the device or hosted applications might share vulnerabilities that are common in web servers running on the internet. Many devices would provide a web interface to manage them, and to do this they are likely to use commonly available webservers, eg ngix or apache.
However simply being available on the internet makes something a target. Someone scanning the internet for something interesting to break into would not necessarily know that the device responding on port 80 is a thermostat rather than a webserver.

Reason 2: For the capabilities

In many ways a thing is mostly a less powerful computer with extra capabilities. It’s unlikely that someone would hack your thing for the computing power (although people have produced bincoin mining malware for android). However your thing is every bit as capable as a computer in every other way. It could be used to gain a foothold in your network. It could be used as a spam relay. It could be used in DDoS attacks. It could be used to host malware. The list goes on…
Your thing is generally different though, as it is a computer + something. That something could provide a rich set of capabilities that computers don’t currently have. For example, a Nest has sensors to identify whether someone is home or not. Imagine if someone were able to hack into your Nest, prior to breaking into your house to check if you are home. Cameras on ‘things’ could well be used in the same way that RAT trojans are used for voyeurism and blackmail. Consider that you might not have a laptop with a webcam in every room, but you might well put a ‘thing’ with a camera each room, including the bathroom.
As the internet of things starts to take off, people are going to work out new ways to exploit the new sensors that it brings to the table.

Reason 3: For the data

Not all ‘things’ have sensors that would be useful in real time but many of them collect some very interesting data. Something like a fitbit can track your activity. We want that information to run our lives, but it is just as interesting to a third party. Things can provide historical data on heart rate, location or any other information that might be collected.

Conclusion

Security is hard and typically is an afterthought. This should get rather interesting when your lightbulbs and door locks get hacked.

Mounting Network Gear

For a while I’ve been keeping my modem and the voip box sitting on top of the printer. This is a bit of a problem as you tend to knock everything off when you try to scan something.
When I replaced the modem with a new modem and a switch. I decided enough was enough, I needed a better solution. I thought the solution I came up with might be of general interest so I took a few photos on the way through.
Apologies in advance the terrible quality of the photos.
Before – oh the mess!
What you need:
  1. 12mm thick mdf board
  2. Screws to match the depth of the board (I chose 6G x 15mm)
  3. Jigaw to cut it out
  4. Drill + bits to put a nice neat hole in the top to hang it
  5. Sandpaper to clean up
  6. Tape Measure
You need this

1. Mark the board

Measure the items you want to mount. Add a centimetre for the space between each one, and 5cm for space at the top. Mark the board up. Don’r forget: measure twice and cut once.

2. Cut out your board

Using your handy jigsaw, cut out the board.Coffee table and jellybean dropsheet are optional accessories.

Jigsawing

Clean this up with the sandpapaper, jigsaws tend to leave rough edges

Sanding

3. Drill a hole

This needs to be large enough to handle your hook. I’d err on the side of larger holes to handle larger hooks.

It’s a hole! In a piece of wood!

4. Start mounting things

First set of screws

Problem 1: The little linksys box didn’t neatly handle the screws, so I had to scrape the plastic away a little.

Thank goodness it will all be out of sight in time

First one mounted, blurred for effect
All of them mounted on the board
With the cables wired in

You might notice that I didn’t do a great job of spacing these apart very well. The modem on the far left overhangs the end of the board slightly and there isn’t a huge gap between that and the switch (in the middle). I should follow my own advice on measure twice cut once.

Conclusion

I’ve found this useful for getting everything out of the way. I hope this helps someone else.

Embedding images in a page – MVC style

I recently had a need to write some images stored in a database to a page. This was something rare enough that I thought it was worth documenting as it meant putting together a few different pieces.

Examples here are for MVC4, but could be easily adapted for somehing else.

In the View:
Restaurant Image

In the controller:
byte[] photoData
// populate photoData here
model.Photo = Convert.ToBase64String(photoData, 0, src.photo.Length)

This works by encoding the image as a base 64 string, which is supported by most modern browsers. You might need to change the data at the start to handle different image types.

Pair this with the following two pages:

  1. Uploading a File (Or Files) With ASP.NET MVC – Phil Haack
  2. Convert HttpPostedFileBase to byte[] – Stack Overflow
and you’ve got an end to end solution for uploading and displaying files.

Why would you / wouldn’t you do this?

Doing this is a bad idea in many cases as it means that the image can’t be cached. Overall this would tend to make your page loads slower.
However it might be worth doing if
  1. If the image is changing often enough and therefore there is no value in caching
  2. It gives you a self contained page, limiting the number of http connections

Internal Project – implement the API

I’ve completed the work in implementing the API.

This was surprisingly more complex than expected. I’ve spent a bit of time working with WebApi and I’d also done the work to design the API, but I still ran into a few unexpected issues, some of which required me to change the design of the API.

Finding the IP address

For some reason I’d decided to include logging the IP address of the client machine when people mark a status as liked and when a status is marked as viewed. This proved to be a bit harder than expected. After poking around in the Request object for a while, I resorted to google, which led to this stack overflow question.

Routing Fun

When I’d designed the API, I’d had planned GET requests to cover retrieving a single status, searching for statuses and retrieving the status history, all hitting the same URL. I’d slightly naively assumed that this would be handled something like function overloading. I’d also confused this with the simple case where you return all and retrieve a single item by id. In that case, this is handled by routing.
Clearly this doesn’t work, how would the server resolve the HTTP verb to a single function?
As a result I needed to move this to separate the methods using routing. This meant that search became: /status/search as a GET.

Retrieving values passed in

I ran into a few problems trying to retrieve values passed to the server. Should they go in the body? URL? Headers?

In retrospect, probably the best place for the session id would have been as a header. Ideally the authentication for this could be handled as less of a copy and paste implementation. It would be a bit overkill in the current situation though.

Progress

  1. Document the UI – I’ve found this tends to make the implementation clearer
  2. Implement in bootstrap, MVC4 with SQL Server backend
  3. Design JSON API to access app
  4. Implement JSON api using WebApi backend
  5. Replace MVC app with javascript client side framework, angular
  6. Swap the SQL Server backend for a No SQL database
  7. Replace the WebApi backend with an F# implementation
  8. Replace the WebApi backend with node.js

Internal project – design the API

I’ve spent some time designing the API for my internal project.

I’ve documented the design of the API here.

Key Points

Session 

Following best practices, I’ve avoided including the login and password with each request. Instead there is a session service. Call this service to create a new session and get a session token in response. In addition I’ve included a method to end the session early. The intention that the session token would expire. Making a call to any of the methods on the API would reset the timeout.

HTTP

As far as possible I’ve mapped this to valid HTTP verbs.

Difficulties

One difficulty I ran into was how to provide a nice mechanism to mark a post a liked. It didn’t make sense to mark a status item as liked by making a PUT request with the entire status item. The best option was to add a status/like URL, under the status URL.

Resources

There are a sack of really good resources out there for this:

  1. Best Practices for Designing a Pragmatic RESTful API: http://www.vinaysahni.com/best-practices-for-a-pragmatic-restful-api
  2. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of REST APIs: http://broadcast.oreilly.com/2011/06/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-of-rest-apis.html
  3. OWASP REST Security Cheat Sheet: https://www.owasp.org/index.php/REST_Security_Cheat_Sheet

Current Status

  1. Document the UI – I’ve found this tends to make the implementation clearer
  2. Implement in bootstrap, MVC4 with SQL Server backend
  3. Design JSON API to access app
  4. Implement JSON api using WebApi backend
  5. Replace MVC app with javascript client side framework, angular
  6. Swap the SQL Server backend for a No SQL database
  7. Replace the WebApi backend with an F# implementation
  8. Replace the WebApi backend with node.js