San Francisco security firm Lookout revealed Wednesday that it was able to hack the Google Glass head-mounted system's earlier software and render it vulnerable to malicious code that could, in theory, seize control of data coming from that next big Internet of things.
Google Glass is where you literally just look up information, glancing into the screen and camera in this Web-connected device, to find the information you want. In this instance, Glass was hacked by the image of a malicious QR code.
In a Lookout blog posted on Wednesday, Marc Rogers, principal security researcher, revealed the exploit that his firm performed in May, and said it had immediately alerted Google to the problem.
The source of the hack was the Google Glass QR code. As Rogers put it, Glass looks for data it can recognize when the user takes a photo and the most obvious are QR codes, barcodes that can contain everything from instructions to send an SMS or browse a website to configuration information that change device settings. Google used this capability as an easy way for a user to configure his Glass without having to use a keyboard.
The scenario that the exploit represents: The Google Glass wearer photographs something with a QR code or link, using the device. However, the code's command is also automatically executed. Without telling or asking the wearer for permission, the device can just open the URL. This is the door the hacker wants, injecting malicious code and links and gaining control of the device.
"We analyzed how to make QR codes based on configuration instructions and produced our own 'malicious' QR codes," he said. When photographed by an unsuspecting Glass user, the code did its mischief successfully, making Glass connect to a "hostile" WiFi access point controlled by Lookout.
The access point enabled the sleuths to spy on the connections Glass made, and it even allowed Lookout to divert Glass to a page on the access point with a known Android vulnerability that hacked Glass as it browsed the page.
Lookout alerted Google when the flaw was discovered in mid-May. Google responded quickly and the issue was fixed with the June 4 release of version XE6. Lookout recommended that Google limit QR code execution to points where the user solicited it.
"Google's changes reflected this recommendation," said Rogers. He credited Google's responsive turnaround as indication of the "depth of Google's commitment to privacy and security for this device."
Security in Post-PC Era
While the Google Glass flaw is fixed, the incident serves as a reminder of where we are in the post-PC era of an Internet of Things, and the new normal in security issues.
Everyday objects are being transformed by added sensors that enable them to interact with the world, processors that enable them to think about it and network interfaces that allow them to talk about it, he stated. New things can be hacked in new ways.
Rogers said, "As we change the nature of things, identifying vulnerabilities and managing updates quickly and efficiently will be paramount. Connected things need to be treated like software when it comes to security."