IoT: The Rise of the Machines (Guest Diary)

Published: 2015-01-12
Last Updated: 2015-01-12 15:27:10 UTC
by Johannes Ullrich (Version: 1)
7 comment(s)

[This is a guest diary submitted by Xavier Mertens]

Our houses and offices are more and more infested by electronic devices embedding a real computer with an operating system and storage. They are connected to network resources for remote management, statistics or data polling. This is called the "Internet of Things" or "IoT". My home network is hardened and any new (unknown) device connected to it receives an IP address from a specific range which has no connectivity with other hosts or the Internet but its packets are logged. The goal is to detect suspicious activity like data leaks or unexpected firmware updates. The last toy I bought yesterday is a Smart Plug from Supra-Electronics. This device allows you to control a power plug via your mobile device and calculate the energy consumption with nice stats. I had a very good opportunity to buy one for a very low price (25€). Let's see what's inside....

The documentation mentions a setup procedure and management via a mobile device (with a free app for IOS or Android) but the first reflex is to scan the box. Interesting, a webserver as well as a telnet server are waiting for packets. Let's try common credentials like admin/admin and...

$ telnet
Connected to
Escape character is '^]'.
(none) login: admin
BusyBox v1.12.1 (2014-07-31 06:32:52 CEST) built-in shell (ash)
Enter 'help' for a list of built-in commands.


Immediately after the boot sequence, the device started to try to communicate with remote hosts:

Amongst DNS requests and NTP synchronization, a lot of traffic was generated to different IP addresses over UDP/10001. The same packet being sent to different hosts. The payload was a block of 60 bytes:

I was not able to decode the content of this payload, please comment if you recognize some patterns. The device also performs a regular connectivity check via a single ICMP ECHO packet sent to (every 5 mins). This network traffic is generated by the process called RDTServer:

# ps
   1 admin     1400 S    init 
   2 admin        0 SWN  [ksoftirqd/0]
   3 admin        0 SW<  [events/0]
   4 admin        0 SW<  [khelper]
   5 admin        0 SW<  [kthread]
   6 admin        0 SW<  [kblockd/0]
   7 admin        0 SW<  [kswapd0]
   8 admin        0 SW   [pdflush]
   9 admin        0 SW   [pdflush]
  10 admin        0 SW<  [aio/0]
  11 admin        0 SW   [mtdblockd]
  18 admin     1084 S    nvram_daemon 
  19 admin     1612 S    goahead 
  20 admin      872 R    RDTServer 
  24 admin     1400 R    telnetd 
  26 admin      872 S    RDTServer 
  27 admin      872 S    RDTServer 
  33 admin      872 S    RDTServer 
  34 admin      872 S    RDTServer 
  35 admin      872 S    RDTServer 
  36 admin      872 S    RDTServer 
  53 admin     1400 S    /bin/sh 
 238 admin        0 SW   [RtmpCmdQTask]
 239 admin        0 SW   [RtmpWscTask]
 366 admin     1400 S    -sh 
 505 admin     1400 R    ps 
 678 admin     1400 S    udhcpd /etc/udhcpd.conf 
 1116 admin    1396 S    udhcpc -i apcli0 -s /sbin/ -p /var/run/udhcp
 1192 admin     872 S    RDTServer 
 1207 admin     772 S    ntpclient -s -c 0 -h -i 86400 

I grabbed a copy of the RDTServer binary (Mips) and using the "strings" command against the file revealed interesting stuff. The IP addresses used were found in the binary:

IP                FQDN                NetName                        Country    AMAZON-EC2-8                US    AMAZON-EC2-SG                Singapore    AMAZON-EU-AWS                Ireland                         JINHUA-MEIDIYA-LTD            China                             CHINANET-SC                China                         CHINANET-IDC-BJ                China    ALISOFT                        China    ALISOFT                        China                         AMAZON-AP-RESOURCES-JP    Japan

Seeing packets sent to China is often suspicious! The domain name belongs to ThroughTek, a company specialized in IoT and M2M ("Machine to Machine") connection platforms:

Registry Domain ID: 1665166563_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN
Registrar WHOIS Server:
Registrar URL:
Update Date: 2014-07-09T11:44:15Z
Creation Date: 2011-07-04T08:50:36Z
Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2016-07-04T08:50:36Z
Registrar:, LLC
Registrar IANA ID: 146
Registrar Abuse Contact Email:
Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +1.480-624-2505
Registry Registrant ID: 
Registrant Name: Charles Kao
Registrant Organization: 
Registrant Street: 4F., No.221, Chongyang Rd.,
Registrant City: Taipei
Registrant State/Province: Nangang District
Registrant Postal Code: 11573
Registrant Country: Taiwan
Registrant Phone: +886.886226535111
Registrant Phone Ext:
Registrant Fax: 
Registrant Fax Ext:
Registrant Email:

In fact, the IOTC platform is a service developed by ThoughTek to establish P2P communications between devices. I read the documentation provided with the device as well as all the website pages and there is no mention of this service. Manufacturers should include some technical documentation about the network requirements (ex: to download firmware updates). In this case, it's not a major security issue but this story enforces what we already know (and be afraid) about IoT: those devices have weak configuration and they lack of visibility/documentation about their behavior. Take care when connecting them on your network. A best practice is to inspect the traffic they generate once online (DNS requests, HTTP(S) request or any other protocol).

"If the enemy leaves a door open, you must rush in." - Sun Tzu
PGP Key:





7 comment(s)


After a brief look at this product (and similar things), I'm inclined to disagree with:

"In this case, it's not a major security issue..."

Poor/weak default configuration + Internet connection + mobile apps + remote control + electricity supply

This spells "trouble" to me, if only from an availability perspective. Might only be mildly annoying if your TV is switched off at random, but slightly more worrying if your home dialysis machine is...
It could become an issue indeed but this kind of device looks definitively not reliable to handle business critical power supplies!
I'm currently investigating the solution developed by ThoughtTek... I'm sure that the system has weaknesses!

Could be *EXTREMELY* worrying!

Many years ago (early 1980's) I was involved in early work on energy management and "smart home" stuff. I pointed out that if an attacker could gain control over the server that sent commands to the devices in a locality, he could synchronously turn *MANY* devices on and off together, creating an electrical surge that would DoS the electrical system. If such an attach were coordinated to occur in many localities at once, it could bring down a large part of the national electrical grid. The response from management? "Don't tell anybody."

So if these devices are being surrepticiously controlled from an potential agressor nation (China), all they have to do is sell enough of them (making money all the while) until they have critical mass, then launch an attack. This is a case of a p[hysical Trojan Hourse, only it is not a gift; the victim pays for it.
Interesting article.

I own a nest but I have blocked its access to the internet. so basically its useless for all the cool online control. I'm curious to know what is the software you are using to view the logs of your device in the attached screenshot?
To my eye, that looks like Kibana, so he's probably running an ELK (Elasticsearch/Logstash/Kibana) stack with a parser written to eat firewall logs and drop them in ElasticSearch, then visualizing with Kibana.

I've been meaning to do that for my pfsense logs at home for a while, but it's hard to find the time.

Take a look on my git, we've find lot of thing about this plug :

You can find others information here :

Its in french.

The china access is probably for the "cloud" access. Without any router configuration, the plug can be Turn on or off in 3G network With the iOS/androïd application.
I recently bought a QIHAN Dvr, Chineese brand obviously. I noticed a very suspicious outgoing traffic from the Dvr to the following IPs - - Italy, ARUBA-NET, Aruba S.p.A. - Dedicate server Farm2, - China, ALISOFT, Aliyun Computing Co., LTD and - Beijing, China, TencentCloud, Tencent cloud computing (Beijing) Co., Ltd.
This is at lest a little disturbing and suspicious. I blocked this ips at my router's side using iptables. This is not connected to ddns or something like that becaouse everything works fine. There are a lot of huge security vulnerabilities in these dvr, staring from activex which is used for web management, weak passwords and who knows what else.

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