Texas Drone Uncovers Scale Of IoT Security Worries

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Austin-based drone discovers details of 1,600 IoT devices in just a few neighbourhoods

The scale of the security challenge facing the Internet of Things (IoT) has been uncovered by researchers using an unmanned drone.

Security firm Praetorian has been using a drone in its home city of Austin, Texas, in order to sniff out and detect smart devices connected to the IoT, finding that many are easily discoverable.

As part of its effort to create an Internet of Things Map, the firm’s researchers kitted out a drone with the company’s custom built connected-device tracking appliance flew it over the city. They found that they were able to uncover the names of device manufacturers and whether those gadgets were used in commercial, residential, or industrial zones.

Flying high

texas drone2The get their results, the researchers used a six-rotor fully autonomous drone (pictured left)from an unnamed local start-up, equipping it with a GPS device and a ZigBee radio.

ZigBee is a popular communications protocol which helps run many of the IoT devices currently available today, creating small personal area networks around the device before transmitting data through a mesh network of devices nearby to reach more distant ones.

The drone included software that logs the location of all connected things within a 100m range, which were then analysed to identify the connected device’s security settings, manufacturer ID, channels, and other attributes.

Overall, the drone detected nearly 1,600 unique connected devices are being used in Austin, with the majority (1,235) in residential areas.

Praetorian was also able to discover that there were 465 different manufacturers making connected devices in use around the city, including 453 connected Sony devices and 110 Philips Lighting products.

A recent Gartner study estimated that there will be 4.9 billion ‘things’ connected to the Internet by the end of this year, a figure which will continue growing to hit 25 billion by 2020.

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