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Fun with Shodan and IOT

Edward KiledjianComment

Read this related article: Find phishing and malware with a simple search

Search engines have become a favourite starting point for threat actors, so it should also be your starting point. Beyond Google, there are a bunch of specialized search engines that are powerful and scary. This article talks a bit about Shodan. Think of this article as a gentle introduction.

What is shodan


Shodan is often called the world's most dangerous search engine. Shodan attempts to catalogue metadata about its targets and its targets are often Internet of Things (IOT) devices. Hackers and security researches use Shodan daily to find vulnerable webcams, open traffic light systems, SCADA in manufacturing plants and much more.

I'm going to assume you have a free Shodan account.

Browse the categories

If you visit the Shodan Explore section, you can find all kinds of interesting systems listed.

Unprotected webcam


For this example, I searched for the Axis 212 webcam which is known to have many vulnerabilities and a known default password.

As an example, the webcam I highlighted seems to be in a daycare facility and isn't even password protected.

I've blurred out the children and teacher.

I've blurred out the children and teacher.

Some are unprotected. Some have kept their default passwords (there are lots of default password lists like this one). Obviously many of these cameras are made by a handful of manufacturers in China and are never updated. Once you find a vulnerability on one model it is often workable on dozens of others.



You can search Shodan for common router brands like Belkin, D-Link, Netgear, etc and then try to log in using the default admin passwords. Above is an example of a Linksys router exposed to the internet without a password. Others are exposed with the default password.

Intel AMT Exposed to the internet

There is a major Intel AMT vulnerability but Shodan shows that 4,647 devices with AMT (on July 22) were connected to the internet.


If you search for "http intel active management" in Shodan, you will get a listing of these devices.


Other searches you can perform

Netgear device with port 80 open to the internet

Netgear device with port 80 open to the internet

Bitcoin servers

Bitcoin servers

You can even use the Shodan ShipTracker dashboard to track realtime ship

Screenshot 2018-07-23 at 10.45.49 PM.png

ShipTracker is harmless on its own, but combined with data available from other sources and the knowledge that many ship systems use default passwords and it is a disaster waiting to happen.

Screenshot 2018-07-23 at 10.54.59 PM.png

There is a known vulnerability that allows a threat actor to steal or modify information from a Memcached server. This vulnerability was used to target GitHub with a massive DDoS attack. Not all Memcached servers are vulnerable ( I won't show you how to find the vulnerable ones) but how would you search for Memcached servers on the net? The answer is with a Shodan query.

Screenshot 2018-07-23 at 10.53.36 PM.png



Obviously, this is just the tip of the iceberg. A true threat intel specialist will be able to automate Shodan queries and then combine them with known vulnerabilities, exploits or default credentials. I am hoping this article created a bit of interest in you to learn more. 

For this article, I only chose examples that were exposed to the internet and were not password protected. Be careful as laws differ around the world. In some countries even testing default passwords could be considered "hacking". 

AI.Type Android Keyboard leaks data from 31M users

GeneralEdward Kiledjian2 Comments

ZDNet got the scoop on this significant leak. AI.type, a third-party keyboard replacement for Android has leaked data for its 31 million users online. 

How did this happen? A database administrator didn't secure the database.  Anyone with basic skills could access and query the unprotected database and "have fun" with the 577 GB of data it contained.

What type of data leaked? The leak includes fun elements like name, email address, precise user geolocation data, city and country. Researchers have also found [that some records contain] phone numbers, IP addresses dates of birth, gender, etc.

Why stop there? Researchers also found that some user contacts were in the database. One table contained ~375M telephone numbers.

This is a perfect example why Apple forces users to enter passwords and sensitive information using their native keyboard (even if the user has chosen to install a third party one.)

On Android, I use the Google keyboard for this exact reason. Another alternative is Swiftkey, which now belongs to Microsoft (another company I would trust).

Improve your internet security right now, easily and for free

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

Quad9 is a new DNS service launched by a non-profit consortium (founding members are IBM Security, Packet Clearing House & Global Cyber Alliance). The promise of the Quad9 DNS service is good security using the knowledge of some of the world's leading security research firms, by merely changing your default DNS server and ALL for free. 

The service is (not so creatively) called Quad9 because the DNS address is

Is the Quad9 service fast?

I used the free DNS Benchmark tool by Steve Gibson with connections from Canada, the USA, the UK and Switzerland. I performed ten tests from each region, and in every test, the Quad9 service was in the top 3 fastest DNS services available. In most cases coming in first. 


Quad9 is lightning fast because they use anycast routing which automatically finds and uses the nearest DNS server to the user. 

At launch, the service is powered by 70 servers in 40 countries, but the intention (in 2018) is to grow the fleet to 160 servers.

So how does it improve my security?

So why should you switch from your existing DNS service to the free Quad9 DNS service? Quad9 is a security and privacy enhancing DNS service that delivers much more security than any other DNS service currently available to consumers (more than your ISP, OpenDNS, etc.)

Quad9 says " Quad9 blocks against known malicious domains, preventing your computers and IoT devices from connecting malware or phishing sites." The threat intelligence is provided by the IBM X-Force but also includes 18 additional threat feeds from partners. Typically companies would pay tens of thousands for this level of protection and they are offering it for free.

You can configure your home router to use Quad9 and all device inside your house would be automatically protected (including that cheap easy to hack $29 webcam you bought from a shady online reseller). 

If a device (using Quad9) tries to contact a "bad" site, they will get back an NX domain error code (aka not found). This is how they prevent devices from being directed to dangerous sites.

Remember that a known good site could have been compromised and therefore could attempt to pull content from a shady site. Quad9 will prevent this from happening. 

Quad9 will continue adding features to further improve your security.

What about false positives?

They maintain a list of the 1,000,000 most used sites on the internet as a whitelist. This means that they cannot (mistakenly) blacklist an important site and make it unavailable. 

It looks like a well designed and well thought out platform.

What about my privacy?

The first thing you should realise is that most home connection use the DNS services of their ISP, and I consider most ISPs as the least trustworthy operators in your computing chain. Most are willing to sell your data cheaply to anyone willing to buy it.

Quad9's privacy statement is clear "No personally identifiable information is collected by the system. IP addresses of end-users are not stored on disk or distributed outside of the equipment answering the query in the local data center. Quad 9 is a nonprofit organization dedicated only to the operation of DNS services. There are no other secondary revenue streams for personally identifiable data; and the core charter of the organization is to provide secure, fast, private DNS."


I switched to Quad9, and it has been everything they promised. I recommend everyone reading this switch and try it out. It is one more layer of protection, and this one is easy & free.

How to protect your Bitcoin from theft

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

Bitcoin is all the rage, and everyone is talking about it.  Any discussion or write up about Bitcoin usually starts with the fact that is it a decentralized digital currency. Decentralized means that no government or company controls it and it also means each participant is on his/her own when it comes to protecting their Bitcoin investment.

With US fiat currency saved in a bank, you have a high level of confidence that the money will be there in a day, week, month or a year. If the unthinkable happens and the bank is hacked,  most bank deposits are federally insured, and the government will make you whole.

Bitcoin does not have any insurance or governmental oversight. Any Bitcoin left on an exchange is only as secure as that exchange's platform.

In Bitcoin, your ownership is confirmed using a super secret private key. When you store coins on an exchange, they hold the private keys for these coins. Any hacker that manages to obtain these private keys can, therefore, control your (now their) coins and move them into a new account they control. Once your coins are gone, there is no way to recover them.

How to secure your Bitcoin

The first rule is: do not leave your Bitcoins on an exchange. Most theft happens from exchanges because hackers know that compromising one exchange can yield millions in gains.

Some Exchanges (e.g., Coinbase) offer offline cold storage options. These are more secure than their traditional active accounts (since they double check transaction requests and have long waiting periods), but if someone steals the private keys due to infrastructure insecurity,  they would be able to access your coins.

The second rule: control your private keys. When managing your private keys, computer security becomes critically important. I have written dozens of articles about it, so I won't take a deep dive here, but you'll have to spend some time thinking about it.  

In TL;DR form: I recommend that you chose the safest and most robust computing environment when processing your private keys or performing Bitcoin transactions (purchase, sale or transfer). For most individuals, I recommend using a name brand Chromebook. A Chromebook a purpose-built device running Google Chrome on a very secure Linux operating system. Google continuously updates Chromebooks. Chromebooks offer a small attack surface and are less susceptible to compromise than a Windows or MacOS device.

Now that you have a secure platform to complete your transactions, the next question is: Where do I store my private keys?  

You should keep a small amount of Bitcoin in a reputable smartphone app, where you can access it quickly if you feel like spending it.  I like the Jaxx wallet (it is simple, well written and cross-platform).

You should store most of your bitcoin in a purpose-built offline (not on your computer or connected to the internet) hardware device. My device of choice is the Trezor wallet, but there are other excellent options (e.g., Ledger). These devices generate and protect your private keys. By keeping your private keys offline, they are immune to infections on your computer or constant hacking attempts. A Chrome extension powers the Trezor wallet, therefore it works beautifully on a Chromebook.

Image courtesy of Trezor

Image courtesy of Trezor

When setting up these hardware wallets, you generate a special recovery sentence (typically consists of 20 unrelated words). You should write this down on paper and store it somewhere safe. Never save this online, since anyone with access to this code could recover your private keys and steal your money. In the unlikely event that your hardware wallet dies, you can order a replacement and restore your private keys (during initialization) by entering your unique secret recovery sentence.


As cryptocurrency matures and becomes more widespread, I believe people will have to take a more active role in protecting their own money.  It's probably a good idea to dip your toe now and start learning the ins and outs of crypto currency.

OPSEC - Introduction to Malware

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

What is malware

Malware is shorthand for Malicious Software and has been around almost from the start of computing. Its main purpose is to harm the computer or the user. Malware has been known to steal login credentials, monitor the user, tamper with information (breaking integrity), steal information or just making the system unusable. 

Malware can be designed by a nefarious teenager in his mother's basement looking to make a name for himself or by a state-sponsored threat actor against activists or journalists.

How can I tell if my computer is infected

The first rule of thumb is to use the Antivirus product that came with your operating system. As an example, all modern Windows systems are shipped with a self-updating antivirus supported by Microsoft. Third party products have been known to cause issues (here, here, etc).

To be transparent, antivirus will detect standard run of the mill type of malware but anything more sophisticated will easily get through. Larger companies with well-funded security teams typically eschew antivirus for more advanced malware detection tools based on a series of technologies like application behaviour monitoring, machine learning, artificial intelligence and system baselining. Unfortunately, these are not yet available for small operations but expect them to eventually make their way there.

So the question of detecting malware on your computer is a difficult one and often requires a highly skilled technician with precise tools that knows what he/she is looking for.  At the very least, use the tools available to you now:

warning I received when someone in Sao Paulo tried to log into my Lastpass account.

warning I received when someone in Sao Paulo tried to log into my Lastpass account.

  • Sign up for services that offer 2-factor authentication (so malware can't log into your account by simply stealing a password) and that will notify you of unusual behaviour (Google, LastPass, etc). 
  • Notice subtle indicators. Pay attention to your computer and look for subtle inconsistencies. Does your webcam light turn on when you are not using it? Does it look like you sent an email you don't remember sending? Does an online service show a login time you know you weren't working?  Pay attention to subtle cues.

How did I get infected?

The most common technique used by threat actors is to trick the user into installing malware pretending to be something else. It can pretend to be a system update. It can pretend to be a holiday card from a family member. It can pretend to be a work file from your boss. It can be a drive-by download where your system is exploited simply by being vulnerable and you visiting a carefully crafted webpage. 

  • Link to a malware site can be disguised as a link to a popular internet site (Apple, Amazon, Microsoft), shared content (a document, holiday card, music file, etc) or a fake system update (flash update, etc).
  • You may be targetted via email. It is common for highly skilled threat actors to compromise the systems of people you trust and use that trust to trick you into running malware, visiting a malware site or performing an action you otherwise would not. Remeber that these are often highly skilled practitioners that understand human psychology and will exploit it as needed. This includes chat apps, email, messages on forums, web pages, etc.
  • You can get infected by connecting purpose-built attack hardware to your computer. We have devices that look normal (like the USB Rubber Ducky from Hak5) but that can run attack code without your knowledge as soon as they are connected to your computer. 
  • Someone can gain physical access to your computer and plant malware without your knowledge. In security we consider it game over if anyone has access to your equipment, This is why companies spend large sums of money physically protecting their servers in isolated access controlled cages inside heavily guarded and secured datacenters. 

The more valuable you are as a target the less likely you are to notice the attack. 

How can I protect myself from malware?

  • Make sure you are running legally registered versions of all the products you use daily. Using legal versions entitles you to the latest updates and every security person will recommend keeping all of your software and operating systems updates regularly. Threat actors will often exploit vulnerabilities that have been patched (aka if you update you are protected). 
  • Only install the software you absolutely need. Remember that every software is a potential attack vector. Install only what you need and only download it from the manufacturer never from a download site like CNET,, etc (to prevent supply chain attacks like CCleaner.) Many of these download sites make money by bundling garbage apps that get silently installed and these can also be used to attack you.
  • Remember that anything you open or click on can compromise your security. Call a sender before opening a file. Download and scan it first with something like VirusTotal before opening it. Never click on links in email or instant messaging. Always go to the URL yourself (obfuscating a malicious link to look 'good' is easy). If you use Gmail, open questionable attachments in Google docs or sheets as this will often strip the malicious content.
  • Remember that one second of forgetfulness is all it takes. Be extra vigilant when browsing the web. Never run anything on the web. Always know that the web can be faked. Even known sites can be compromised and used to inject malware.
  • When travelling to high-risk areas, I usually travel with a Google Chromebook. It auto updates itself. There are very few known attacks against it. Chromebooks have a feature called Powerwash that factory resets the device image to "like new" within 2 minutes. Often times I will powerwash my device before performing sensitive tasks. Also, data is stored in the Google cloud. Regardless of how you feel about their privacy policies, they have proven to be excellent at protecting their users from targeted attacks. Make sure you turn on 2-factor authentication.
  • Turn off your computer and unplug it from a physical network when not in use.

What can I do if I am infected?

  • The first rule is that if you are infected or even suspect that you are infected, forget about cleaning your device and have it completely reinstalled from scratch using known clean installation media. 
  • If you are infected, immediately unplug your computer from the internet (ethernet or WIFI) and shut down your computer.
  • Use a known clean computer to log into your web services and change all your passwords immediately.  
  • If one of your devices is compromised, and you are a high target, assume all your other devices could be compromised and reinstall everything from scratch including your smartphone.
  • If you have support from a government agency, reach out to them and ask them for support. If you are a journalist or activist, reach out to one of the public security support organizations like the Toronto Citizen Lab
  • If you know when you were infected, make sure you restore files from a date prior to the infection. It is critically important to use a backup service that provides version control (e.g. blackblaze version control).