UPnP flaws expose tens of millions of networked devices to remote attacks, researchers say

Researchers from Rapid7 found severe vulnerabilities in UPnP libraries used in thousands of products

By Lucian Constantin, IDG News Service |  Networking

Tens of millions of network-enabled devices including routers, printers, media servers, IP cameras, smart TVs and more can be attacked over the Internet because of dangerous flaws in their implementation of the UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) protocol standard, security researchers from Rapid7 said Tuesday in a research paper.

UPnP allows networked devices to discover each other and automatically establish working configurations that enable data sharing, media streaming, media playback control and other services. In one common scenario a file-sharing application running on a computer can tell a router via UPnP to open a specific port and map it to the computer's local network address in order to open its file-sharing service to Internet users.

UPnP is intended to be used primarily inside local networks. However, security researchers from Rapid7 found over 80 million unique public IP (Internet Protocol) addresses that responded to UPnP discovery requests over the Internet, during scans performed last year from June to November.

Furthermore, they found that 20 percent, or 17 million, of those IP addresses corresponded to devices that were exposing the UPnP SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) service to the Internet. This service can allow attackers to target systems behind the firewall and exposes sensitive information about them, the Rapid7 researchers said.

Based on the UPnP discovery responses the researchers were able to fingerprint unique devices and discover what UPnP library they were using. They found that over a quarter of them had UPnP implemented through a library called the Portable UPnP SDK.

Eight remotely exploitable vulnerabilities have been identified in the Portable UPnP SDK, including two that can be used for remote code execution, the researchers said.

"The vulnerabilities we identified in the Portable UPnP SDK have been fixed as of version 1.6.18 (released today), but it will take a long time before each of the application and device vendors incorporate this patch into their products," HD Moore, chief security officer at Rapid7, said Tuesday in a blog post.

Over 23 million IP addresses from those identified during the scans corresponded to devices that can be compromised through the Portable UPnP SDK vulnerabilities by sending a single specifically crafted UDP packet to them, according to Moore.

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