Airport Security Not Secure Enough, Researcher Reveals at Black Hat

By Sean Michael Kerner  |  Posted 2014-08-06 Print this article Print
Black Hat USA conference

Going a step further, Rios did a preliminary check to see if any of the time tracker units are Internet-facing. He found some 6,000 units on the Internet, with one of them belonging to San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Rios said that he worked with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to get the SFO device taken off the Internet.

"An attacker with the hard-coded password could have simply logged into the device, then pivoted to other devices on the network the time tracker is connected with," Rios said. "That most likely could have been an airport control system, which would not be good."


The third TSA device analyzed by Rios is the Itemiser, technology used in airports to swab a passenger or their luggage to identify if narcotics or hazardous materials are present.

Rios found a number of service technician passwords on the Itemiser software that were also hard-coded.

"With the passwords, you can take over the configuration of the device," he said. "Since this device is supposed to detect narcotics and explosives, you could potentially make it not detect those things."

The larger message that Rios wants to get across is not the fact that he found vulnerabilities, but rather that perhaps the TSA doesn't know everything it should about the software it is running.

"Given that these devices run in a security-sensitive area, they should know whether they have some obvious flaws," he said.

Rather than just complain about the TSA's software, Rios wants to help the organization and others like it make sure they are procuring the most secure software possible. To that end, he is releasing a framework to help organizations with the process of secure device acquisition. One of the key recommendations in the framework is making sure devices don't have hard-coded technician passwords in them.

"A lot of people forget that embedded devices are still computers," Rios said. "So you cannot overlook the cyber-security aspect for those devices."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel