Dishwashers on the rampage: LG IoT security bug highlights risks of home automation

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LG’s SmartThinQ is a framework for communication between devices

The discovery this week of a security vulnerability within SmartThinQ, a technology touted by LG for automating communication with its range of home appliances and devices, has reinforced the risks of remote Internet of Things (IoT) takeover as attackers progressively master new methods of attacking increasingly smart devices.

LG’s SmartThinQ is a framework for communication between devices that enables them to, among other things, be controlled by smartphone apps or by voice through integration with emerging smart-home devices such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home. It has been built into a range of LG refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers, air purifiers, washing machines, dryers, and robotic vacuums.

Weaknesses in the core software, which were named ‘HomeHack’ and disclosed by Check Point Software Technologies researchers to LG on 31 July, allowed an attacker to create a fake LG account, then use this to take over the account of a legitimate user that would provide access to all of their appliances.

This presents, among other things, security concerns that the remote-monitor camera on automatic vacuums could be used to surveil a target home or office.

The risk of poor IoT security isn’t limited to renegade vacuums, however: even as home video cameras and other appliances are relentlessly probed for vulnerabilities, the risk of vulnerabilities in medical devices or industrial-control sensors – which could potentially cause injury or death – have let to prioritisation of the need for urgent improvements as IoT reshapes the future of device security.

LG Electronics responded quickly to the Check Point alert, remotely updating what LG manager of smart development team Koonseok Lee said in a statement was “an advanced rooting process designed to detect security issues”. The patched and updated SmartThinQ kernel has been running “smoothly and issue-free” since then, Lee said.

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