It’s curious, thinking to a child monitoring app you imagine a solution that can protect your children, instead the situation could be really different.
Researchers with the Canadian watchdog group Citizen Lab have discovered 26 vulnerabilities and many other design issues in Smart Sheriff, a child monitoring app that is very popular in the South Korea because it is mandated by the Government of Seoul.
The child monitoring app was funded and developed by the South Korean government with the intent of fighting children’s access to online pornography.
Smart Sheriff allows parents “to monitor how long their kids use their smartphones, how many times they use apps and which websites they visit. Some send a child’s location data to parents and issue an alert when a child searches keywords such as ‘suicide’, ‘pregnancy’ and ‘bully’ or receives messages with those words”, reports AP
The researchers discovered that attackers can exploit the vulnerabilities to take over the users’ accounts and access other sensitive information.
More than half a million South Koreans use the Smart Sheriff child monitoring app to monitor their children.
Citizen Lab reported the security issued to the company that develops the child monitoring app, the Korean Mobile Internet Business Association (MOIBA), in early August. The company fixed some of the problems reported, but it is not clear which ones have been fixed to date.
The Citizen Lab agreed a timeline with the MOIBA, but it isn’t providing any update on its bug fixing activity.
“The Smart Sheriff app was written without any security in mind. The connected API services are architectured and implemented in similarly horrendous ways, allowing trivial exposure of passwords and other highly sensitive user data,” reads the report issued by the German pen testing service Cure53.
“Given the level of vulnerability this app exposes, combined with the extremely high numbers of its users, it needs to be considered that at least some of the issues published in this report must have started to be actively exploited by now.”
The Smart Sheriff app fails to encrypt any parents and child’s data, dates of birth, gender, and telephone numbers along mobile device information could be easily intercepted by an attacker sharing the same network. Smart Sheriff sends information to its own servers in plain text, violating also the Korean law.
The app doesn’t authenticate requests it receives, an attacker could impersonate the Safe Sheriff servers, and inject malicious code into smartphone using the child monitoring app.
“Their servers fail to meet common security standards,” Citizen Lab writes, “The deployment is based on obsolete and insecure protocols that are vulnerable to attacks that could lead to the interception and impersonation of MOIBA’s servers.”
“Combinations of the identified vulnerabilities could lead to mass compromise of accounts or service disruption. An attacker with the resources to run a high volume of queries against Smart Sheriff could potentially identify all of Smart Sheriff’s users, and then use the vulnerabilities we identified to systematically disrupt all subscribers’ devices or the service itself,” the researchers write.
It is absurd that a country technological advanced like the South Korea has promoted an app that totally lack of security by design, especially when dealing with online child protection.
(Security Affairs – child monitoring app, Smart Sheriff)