API Security Lessons from Fisher-Price’s Smart Toy Bear Security Flaw
Earlier this week it was reported that researchers at Boston-based security company, Rapid7, identified several security flaws in an app connected to a new toy from Mattel’s Fisher-Price brand.
The news of the security vulnerability caught our attention for a few reasons:
- The name of the toy — Smart Toy Bear — is strangely close to the name of our company SmartBear Software.
- More importantly, the story caught our attention because the security vulnerability brought up an important reminder about the important issue of security in today’s connected world.
Luckily, the vulnerability identified by Rapid7 has since been fixed.
But the security flaw — which could have allowed a hacker to steal a child’s name, birthdate and gender, along with other data — is just the latest example of how security in changing the Internet of Things.
When you think of the Internet of Things (IoT), think of connecting anything; everything, together.
Smart devices like thermostat’s that can check on security while you’re away, or in this case — a teddy bear that can learn the name of a child and share information with an application on a parent’s mobile device — have become more and more popular in recent years. These physical devices can connect with each other or other virtual devices or applications (better known as an object to programmers) through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).
APIs enable smart devices to share information, which is why they are susceptible to security vulnerabilities and need to be tested.
How security testing could have helped the Smart Toy Bear
In the case of the Smart Toy Bear, the vulnerability wasn’t between the toy’s app and the company’s database. Programmers are reliant on those APIs, thus they are top of mind when it comes to ensuring that their information is secure.
The vulnerability was identified in an API between the toy and the application, which is more likely to be overlooked because it only shares a few pieces of personal information — including a child’s name, birthday, gender, and language. But much like a bank needs to protect against hackers stealing personal banking information from users of their mobile apps, toy companies also need to protect the information of their younger users. This is important for the peace of mind of the parent and the safety of the child.
With the proper testing, Fisher Price could have identified the security vulnerability.
Testing your API security allows you to protect your services and consumers against the most common security vulnerabilities by using a complement of prebuilt tests and scans. With a tool like Secure Pro, you can simulate attached against REST and SOAP services so that you know they are safe. You can also layer your security tests on top of existing test cases to validate that those steps won’t open any doors to malicious attacks.
Paul Bruce, product marketing manager for SmartBear’s Ready! API product, explains:
“The Internet of Things by its very nature evolves as a dynamic patchwork of hardware, protocols, and experiences. Security is a vital part of the IoT ecosystem in all its layers, but many organizations still treat it like an as-needed luxury item. Large enterprises under regulatory compliance and businesses that understand the pain of a security breach have something significant to teach the lean, minimum-viable-product driven IoT startups: deferring security decisions in your IoT solutions makes you unattractive to attentive investors. No matter how large or small your organization is, a failure in security is a failure of business acumen and brand.”
Security testing in the Internet of Things
In our upcoming eBook, API Testing in the IoT: How to Succeed in an Increasingly Connected World, which will be released later this month, we share different perspectives on API testing in the Internet of Things from experts from throughout the API world.
As you may expect, security was a top concern amongst the experts that we spoke with when developing the new eBook.
Whether you’re an API provider that works with smart devices like the Smart Toy Bear, or develop applications that depend on APIs to provide critical functions – API security needs to be a top priority.
To help your organization avoid being the focus of the next high profile security news story and more importantly — to help you avoid putting your information or the information of your users at risk — we wanted to share a few of the key security lessons from API experts:
1. Test your application and API
“There are hardware failures but considerably fewer of them have vulnerabilities that will give you access to something in the machine or system itself — a switch could go bad but it’s usually the software. We teach the importance of making sure the code doesn’t have bugs and all the testing that needs to be done on the software side as opposed to the hardware side. Software testing and software development for the Internet of Things is on the cutting edge because that’s where the vulnerabilities are… Start with the device. Think about the security for the mobile app and the communication between the device and the mobile app, what protocol they use.”
Bruce de Grazia, program chair of the cyber security management and policy department at University of Maryland, University College
2. Share your knowledge
“Let’s list the top ten vulnerabilities and allow people to learn how to protect from them. We’ve been talking about the same ten types of attacks for decades and no one’s fixing them. And now you have people building these IoT devices and it’s even worse, and they are low security.”
Brian Knopf founder of BRK Security and 20-year veteran of security research and testing
3. Don’t wait for regulations
“There’s obviously a lot of concern about privacy but I think we’re in one of those situations like smoking or sugary foods — the gain to getting all that data is very instant but the problems seem a long way off, and so you end up not being firm enough with guidelines until further down the line and governments have to step in to set rules.”
John Taysom, a fellow at the University of Cambridge and co-founder of privacy company Privitar
Want to learn more? Last year, SmartBear hosted experts from the API world for a special event, IoT Day in Boston, and security was top of mind. Here is a recap of the panel discussion.
We’ll be releasing the new Testing in the Internet of Things eBook later this month. You can subscribe to receive updates about our latest content here.