IoT Case Study: Ensuring Galanz Smart Appliances Aren’t Vulnerable To Hackers


By the year 2025, McKinsey and Company predict that the IoT could provide a worldwide economic impact of $3.9 to $11.1 trillion USD. It’s already started to change the way we interact with the cities around us, vehicles, and even our own homes, thus, enabling us to automate and manage tasks like never before. The IoT has particularly gained momentum in the consumer appliance industry, including touch screen fridges, vacuums, and a whole range of smart home devices that have entered the market in recent years.

For manufacturers, the IoT boom is an incredible opportunity. But, it also presents a huge risk. The IoT threat landscape is complex, and hackers have already proven that they have the power to manipulate smart devices — and even eavesdrop on individuals in their own homes.

So, while the IoT is designed to have a positive impact, organizations that don’t work to mitigate cyber attacks will find that their devices could do more harm than good. This is precisely why Galanz, the worldwide leader in appliances that is famous for its microwaves, refrigerators, ovens and washing machines, among others household devices, teamed up with security specialists at intive, a software development company. Galanz wanted to ensure that their smart microwaves wouldn’t be accessible to hackers, which could potentially put customers in harm’s way. That brings us to discuss some of the risks involved.

Risks Involved
For Guangdong-based Galanz, a faulty cybersecurity system would cause significant safety implications. A hacker might be able to intercept communication between the factory’s central system and Galanz devices around the world. In this, they’d have the power to turn on and off devices within a user’s home — a potentially dangerous scenario, due to the risk of machine overheating, material damages to the devices, or, last but not least, fire. Check out the following example of a possible attack scenario, which describes the ways an attacker might exploit a vulnerability with the IoT platform in Figures 1 and 2:

Furthermore, a rogue hacker would also be able to manipulate home internet networks to then hack into connected TVs, laptops, or smartphones. They could even spread ransomware on those devices or use them to run botnets, which are leveraged to perform DDoS attacks. For example, the infamous Mirai, which is an IoT botnet, started wreaking havoc in 2016 when it was used to compromise devices like home routers and surveillance cameras. According to Cloudflare estimates, Mirai infected about 600,000 IoT devices at its peak.

Finding the Entry Points

Together, intive and Galanz needed to figure out exactly how a hacker could gain access to the IoT device. To do so, they located the following entry points:

The smartphone application used by consumers to remotely communicate with the device
The communication channel between the IoT service provider and the cloud infrastructure managing the device
The API connecting the device and the cloud
The devices themselves, in particular, the communication channels between the devices and mobile devices, as well as the cloud.
Using these entry points, they set out to determine if the security posture of the platform was sound. They also needed to follow the security-in-depth rule. This meant looking into the protocols used for device-to-cloud and cloud-to-mobile communication to ensure that there was no way a hacker could intercept or modify communication.

Threat Modeling and Penetration Tests

As engineers and security experts, they planned to follow a systematic security testing approach, which would analyze the security environment to find potentially risky areas. The process that was carried out included threat modeling and penetration tests  — this step took a total of two months.

These two companies began by engaging in the first phase of threat modeling. They thoroughly reviewed the architectural design of the system in order to fully grasp how the devices were connected. And, really, they wanted to obtain a bird’s eye view of the communication path between the devices. Once this was determined, the teams undertook the second phase of threat modeling. This consisted of taking a full inventory of the threats and extrapolating the communication paths discovered to look for risks connected with the architecture.

Then, it was time for penetration tests. For this, the teams used specialized OS distributions, like Kali Linux and software frameworks like Burp Suite. Then, they wrote custom fuzzing scripts in Python. It began by penetrating the web portal and mobile applications attached to the IoT device, which the consumer can use to turn off and on the microwave. This was to ensure that unauthorized users wouldn’t be able to manipulate the microwave remotely or break it. Penetration tests were also carried out on the IoT devices and on the communication channels for the devices they serve. This was to ensure that no one could connect to the device’s network and influence communication remotely.

Overall, all threats were accounted for, assessed, and addressed. intive provided Galanz with a comprehensive roadmap that detailed how to avoid threats in the future, ensuring customer data would be kept now. And, now, Galanz is confident their appliances will make a positive impact on customers as opposed to putting them at risk.


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