Cox Modem Security Flaws Highlight Risks and Swift Response

Recent findings have brought to light a significant security issue involving Cox modems, which could have allowed unauthorized access to millions of these devices. This discovery, made by security researcher Sam Curry, highlighted the potential for external attackers to control the modems and change their settings without any prior access. Cox quickly addressed these issues within 24 hours of being informed, showcasing the importance of rapid response in cybersecurity.

Uncovering the Issue: What Was Found?

Sam Curry’s research revealed a series of vulnerabilities in Cox modems. These vulnerabilities could have been exploited by attackers to gain the same level of control as Cox support staff. This means that someone from outside could potentially take over the modem, change settings, and access personal information without permission. “This series of vulnerabilities demonstrated a way in which a fully external attacker with no prerequisites could’ve executed commands and modified the settings of millions of modems, accessed any business customer’s PII, and gained essentially the same permissions of an ISP support team,” Curry explained.

Cox’s Quick Response: Taking Action

Once Curry reported these vulnerabilities to Cox on March 4, 2024, the company acted swiftly. Within just 24 hours, Cox fixed the issues, ensuring that the vulnerabilities could not be exploited. Thankfully, there is no evidence that these vulnerabilities were used by attackers before they were fixed.

Understanding the Risk: What Could Have Happened?

The vulnerabilities were related to how Cox support agents can remotely control and update modem settings. This ability is part of normal operations, allowing support staff to help customers with their devices. However, Curry found that there were about 700 different ways (called API endpoints) that could be misused to gain unauthorized access.

For example, one specific method, called “profilesearch,” could be used to find a customer’s business account details using just their name. By exploiting this, an attacker could get information about connected devices, change settings, and even control the modem.

What If an Attack Happened? A Simple Scenario

Imagine an attacker using these vulnerabilities:

  1. Finding a Customer: They could look up a Cox customer and get their account details.
  2. Accessing Devices: They could find out which devices are connected to the modem.
  3. Changing Settings: They could change Wi-Fi passwords and other settings.
  4. Taking Over: Ultimately, they could control the modem and potentially cause disruptions.

“This meant that an attacker could have accessed this API to overwrite configuration settings, access the router, and execute commands on the device,” Curry elaborated. This kind of control could be very harmful, especially for small businesses relying on these devices for daily operations.

The Challenges of Device Management

Managing many different types of devices, like modems and routers, is a complex task. “Building a REST API that can universally talk to likely hundreds of different models of modems and routers is really complicated,” Curry said. If these systems had been designed with stronger security from the start, it could have prevented such vulnerabilities. Companies face a tough challenge in balancing functionality and security for their devices.

A History of Important Discoveries

This isn’t the first time Curry and his team have found significant vulnerabilities. In previous research, they identified flaws in millions of cars from 16 different manufacturers, which could be exploited to unlock and start the vehicles. They also found issues in a rewards program website, where attackers could have managed reward points and accessed personal information.

Why This Matters: The Importance of Cybersecurity

Cox’s quick action to fix these vulnerabilities is commendable, but this situation highlights the critical need for strong security measures. As more devices connect to the internet, protecting them from potential threats becomes even more important. Businesses must prioritize cybersecurity to protect their data and operations.

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