Hacker Exposes Gaping Hole in Google Glasses With Nasty QR Codes
July 17, 2013 4:45 PM
Wearable electronics are undiscovered country in terms of security research
are still in their
very early stages
in terms of commercialization, but already there’s been a fascinating attack on their security, demonstrated by Marc Rogers, the principal researcher at
Lookout Mobile Security
Mr. Rogers took Google Inc.’s (
a rather gaping hole in the device’s security.
Glass Explorer when it spots special
(square shaped barcode-like stickers for smartphones and tablets) automatically can perform certain functions, such as visiting a URL. But the trouble began when Google allowed the QR codes to be used as a setup tool, connecting the devices to a network over Wi-FI or BlueTooth.
The idea seemed clever, given that setup would otherwise be onerous due to lack of a keyboard (the Glass Explorer can take voice input, input from a small trackpad on the side of the glasses, and input from glyphs such as QR codes,
which it “sees”
). The issue was that Google never secured these setup-driven connection commands, allowing you to trick the glasses into visiting a nasty network.
By posting a malicious QR code, Mr. Rogers tricked the Android glasses wearable computer into connecting to his attack network. He showed that such an attack could be used to monitor (using the software tool
) or even take complete remote control of the device exploiting
known Android vulnerabilities
(Mr. Rogers’ attack used an Android 4.0.4 vulnerability).
After revealing the vulnerability to Google on May 16, with information on the attack, Mr. Rogers was impressed to see Google cover the hole by June 4, with the
XE6 firmware update
. That update fights the attack in different ways, including improving warning when connecting to a network via QR command. More significantly the update turns off auto-scanning for QR codes. Thus similar future attacks would require the user to first be choosing to scan an unknowingly malicious code, rather than the attack launching from a mere accidental glance at a malicious QR stuck somewhere.
While Mr. Rogers says he expects more vulnerabilities to be found in Google Glass Explorer before its public release, he’s impressed with Google’s patching time of under a month. He remarks, "This responsive turnaround indicates the depth of Google’s commitment to privacy and security for this device and set a benchmark for how connected things should be secured going forward."
A mere stray glance at a malicious QR code could trigger the exploit, pre-patch.
[Image Source: Slashgear]
He says that the experience has convinced him that by the time the wearable – currently
only available to developers
– is launched at a lower cost to consumers (likely in 2014) – consumers will "be able to trust Glass … because it has been tested."
As for what’s next for Lookout, he plans to next investigate connected cars,
, and smartwatches (such as Sony Corp.'s (
) for exploits. He expects more vulnerabilities to be found in such devices as companies try to work around the logistical hurdles of limited user interfaces, often turning to novel but risky solutions. But he argues consumers shouldn’t fear the "internet of things" industry trend, remarking, "There’s a risk that we will get a little bit scared by new things, and there’s a risk that we could miss out on cool things [as a result]."
"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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