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Uh oh: Wi-Fi Barbie ideal attack target

By Shannon Williams, Tue 8 Dec 2015
FYI, this story is more than a year old

A Wi-Fi capable Barbie doll is sparking concerns about the security risks if she was hacked.

Security firm Bluebox Labs, along with independent security researcher Andrew Hay, examined the security of the mobile components of the Mattell Hello Barbie.

The Wi-Fi connected doll is able to hold real-time conversations by recording audio and uploading it to the cloud for instant processing of artificial intelligence-based responses.

“With the introduction of Hello Barbie, Mattel has brought one of the world’s most recognisable toys into the Internet of Things era,” Bluebox says on its website.

“For any connected device, strong security must take into account not just the device itself, but the full scope of apps and infrastructure associated with it,” the company explains.

 The joint research between Bluebox and Hay covered the mobile app, both iOS and Android versions, developed by Mattel partner ToyTalk as well as communications between the app and cloud-based servers.

According to Bluebox, several issues with the Hello Barbie app were discovered:

  • It utilises an authentication credential that can be re-used by attackers
  • It connects a mobile device to any unsecured Wi-Fi network if it has ‘Barbie’ in the name
  • It shipped with unused code that serves no function but increases the overall attack surface

On the server side, Bluebox also discovered:

  • Client certificate authentication credentials can be used outside of the app by attackers to probe any of the Hello Barbie cloud servers
  • The ToyTalk server domain was on a cloud infrastructure susceptible to the POODLE attack

Bluebox says it disclosed all critical security issues to ToyTalk prior to publication of the research.

“Due to their fast response time, a number of the issues have already been resolved,” the company says.

Bluebox says all of the issues discovered highlighted the need for more secure app development, as well as the need for integrating self-defending capabilities into not only stand-alone mobile apps, but also the apps that power IoT devices like Hello Barbie.

”Ultimately, this research demonstrates the security of the mobile apps associated with IoT devices must be a higher priority,” the company says.

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