Could this Z-Wave vulnerability put millions of smart home devices at risk?

If your smart home devices feature Z-Wave technology (they probably do), then you’re going to want to read this. Researchers have discovered an issue with Z-Wave that could make more than 100 million smart home devices vulnerable to a hack.

Testing firm Pen Test Partners said that it was able to obtain an older, weaker version of Z-Wave, allowing it to more easily hack devices and gain permanent control. The earlier Z-Wave pairing process, known as Z-Wave S0, had a vulnerability.

“Z-Wave uses a shared network key to secure traffic,” the researchers said on their website. “This key is exchanged between the controller and the client devices (‘nodes’) when the devices are paired. The keys are used to protect the communications and prevent attackers exploiting joined devices.”

Z-Wave released its S2 pairing process to fix the original vulnerability. However, the researchers found that, while it’s difficult to hack Z-Wave’s S2, it’s not difficult to downgrade the S2 protocol back to the original version, making any Z-Wave smart device vulnerable to attacks.

According to Forbes, this downgrade would allow hackers to use the weak key to get permanent access to the smart device without the homeowner knowing. It should be noted that the Z-Wave S2 technology can be found in more than 100 million smart home devices, including light bulbs, locks, and alarms systems.

Z-Wave released a statement in response to the findings, saying it is confident its smart devices are secure and not vulnerable to threats.

“The key can only be intercepted during the pairing of the device to the network,” according to the post. “This is only done during the initial installation process, so the homeowner or installation professional would be present when the interception would be attempted, and they would receive a warning from the controller that the security level had changed.”

The makers of Z-Wave technology, Silicon Labs, further clarified in an email to Digital Trends.

“To do this, the bad actor either has to be in close proximity during the very brief time it takes to pair a device (we’re talking milliseconds) or have advanced equipment that has enough battery life to wait long enough for this event to occur at the home,” a spokesperson noted. “And again, the homeowner would know because of the alert. There are specific, coordinated conditions needed to initiate this type of threat and because of this there has not been a real-world instance reported to date,” the company said. “Any Z-Wave device that is already installed and paired is not vulnerable to threat.”

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