Smart luggage is not so smart when it comes to cyber security

If luggage owners aren’t careful, hackers could use app to steal baggage

Security researchers have demonstrated just how easy it is to hijack so-called smart luggage to steal it from its owner.

The Airwheel SR5 is a piece of smart luggage that can follow its owner through a busy airport, and it's also quite expensive at $745. The owner has a wristband that is paired with the luggage, and the luggage does its best to follow them using its motorized wheels.

While there are no security issues related to the pairing process - it would be unlikely that someone else would be trying to pair their luggage at the same time as the owner in the same location - there is an issue with its companion mobile app, according to researchers at security consulting firm Pen Test Partners

“What’s unusual is that pairing with both the wristband and mobile app is possible concurrently,” said Chris Tams, a security researcher at Pen Test Partners. "This is relatively unusual for BLE devices – typically [a] connection to only one device is possible at a time. Yes, later versions of BLE support multiple concurrent connections, but it’s still unusual to see it implemented in consumer IoT.”

Tams added that if the luggage owner hasn’t paired their luggage to the phone app as well as the wristband, which is relatively common, anyone else in Bluetooth range could trivially connect to their luggage and drive it off in a different direction.

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Tams said that the Airwheel mobile app isn’t in the Play Store either, which means users must sideload it. This, he added, is a major red flag. 

“This app also allows new firmware to be pushed to the luggage. We had a quick look at the firmware header and tail. There was no evidence of firmware signing, meaning that one could push modified firmware to the luggage,” he said. 

Tams put forward some ways that Airwheel could fix the security of the device, which should include a force a change of the Bluetooth PIN upon first use.

“However, this doesn’t prevent the owner from never actually setting up the mobile app and never being forced to change that PIN,” he said. “Better would be to have a physical switch on the luggage to only allow pairing with the mobile app when the owner specifically chooses to.”

“Firmware signing would be wise, as would putting their apps into the Play Store,” added Tams.

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