Flawed communication is a common thing among us, humans. But when we talk machinery and software, we expect every process to be flawless. Unfortunately, as recent research data shows, they’re not. Vulnerability management company, Rapid7, released a whitepaper on one of the most pervasive software vulnerabilities discovered recently: a security hole in UPnP (Universal Plug and Play).
A bit of background info:
UPnP is a communications protocol designed to let networks identify and communicate with equipment, thus making the process of setting up a network an easier task. The protocol enables devices such as computers, routers, printers, servers, web cameras, storage drives, media players and smart TVs to communicate with each other over the internet.
How serious are the security flaws in this communications protocol?
As it turns out, very serious, as they enable hackers to access and exploit the vulnerable devices. In other words, because of this vulnerability, a fairly skilled bad guy could go into your network and from there on, take some nasty actions such as:
- Access and steal private data
- Steal passwords
- Take remote control over PCs
- Remotely access devices like webcams or security systems.
During Rapid7’s research period (the second half of 2012), between 40 and 50 million devices have been discovered to be vulnerable to such attacks. What’s worse, people who own UPnP-enabled devices may not be aware of this issue as the respective devices are often shipped with the functionality turned on by default. UPnP support is also enabled by default on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and some Linux versions, to allow certain applications, such as BitTorrent and the Add Device wizard in the Windows OS, to access and configure network-connected services.
Now, what to do?
So far, hackers have not widely exploited the UPnP flaw, but wilth all the publicity around it, it won’t be long before more hackers will start to do their thing.
So until the equipment makers fix the flaws in their devices, here’s what we, here at BullGuard, advise:
- As this major security flaw affects software that is used by many home routers on the market, the first thing to do is to go to the administration interface of your router and disable the UPnP. However, if the router was provided by your Internet Service Provider we recommend you ask for their expert help. In any case, contact them for advice on the matter. Better prevent than cure!
- Also, check out CERT’s (the Computer Emergency Readiness Team) vulnerability note for more information, including a list of vendors whose products are or may be affected by this vulnerability.
- Similarly, try and disable the UPnP functionality on your PC and mobile devices.
- And last but not least, a piece of advice that you should always bear in mind: Stay informed about the latest threats to your internet security and get all your security shields up! Software vulnerabilities have always been a handy tool for hackers to break into websites, computers and data bases to get their hands on precious information or just for fun. What you can do, as a regular computer/internet user, is to install a comprehensive security suite, like BullGuard Internet Security 2013 to protect you from all online threats. The software Vulnerability Scanner included in BullGuard’s software helps you spot flawed outdated versions of programs installed on your computer, and find the necessary patches and updates, before hackers can exploit them.
Download BullGuard now and see if you've got any vulnerable programs on your PC.