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Opening Pandora’s Box: Effective Techniques for Reverse Engineering IoT Devices

Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNSC,volume 10728)


With the growth of the Internet of Things, many insecure embedded devices are entering into our homes and businesses. Some of these web-connected devices lack even basic security protections such as secure password authentication. As a result, thousands of IoT devices have already been infected with malware and enlisted into malicious botnets and many more are left vulnerable to exploitation.

In this paper we analyze the practical security level of 16 popular IoT devices from high-end and low-end manufacturers. We present several low-cost black-box techniques for reverse engineering these devices, including software and fault injection based techniques for bypassing password protection. We use these techniques to recover device firmware and passwords. We also discover several common design flaws which lead to previously unknown vulnerabilities. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach by modifying a laboratory version of the Mirai botnet to automatically include these devices. We also discuss how to improve the security of IoT devices without significantly increasing their cost.


  • Reverse Engineering Process
  • Mirai Botnet
  • Universal Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter (UART)
  • UART Ports
  • Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA)

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

O. Shwartz, Y. Mathov and M. Bohadana contributed equally to this paper.

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Correspondence to Omer Shwartz , Yael Mathov , Michael Bohadana or Yossi Oren .

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Table 3. A list of hardware and software tools used
Fig. 3.
figure 3

UART discovery assistant module

Table 4. Inspected devices and the techniques effective on them
Fig. 4.
figure 4

Examples of UART terminals

Fig. 5.
figure 5

Password recovery duration using the GPU server described in Table 3. Each marking on the graph is a successfully recovered password belonging to a device inspected.

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Shwartz, O., Mathov, Y., Bohadana, M., Elovici, Y., Oren, Y. (2018). Opening Pandora’s Box: Effective Techniques for Reverse Engineering IoT Devices. In: Eisenbarth, T., Teglia, Y. (eds) Smart Card Research and Advanced Applications. CARDIS 2017. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 10728. Springer, Cham.

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