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Internet of Things :: Ryobi PhoneWorks

First, let me say that Home Depot gets most of my excess funds each month. Their stores are always neat, organized, and the staff is enthusiastic and helpful nearly every time. You can do an incredible amount of self-repair through their educational classes. I highly recommend them to help you take care of your home.


Second, I have never had a problem with a Ryobi tool, and I was interested in the PhoneWorks brand of "smart home improvement" tools they offered. Particularly, I have needed a remote camera and they offer one for about $79 that connects to your smart phone. I purchased one a few weeks ago and set out on home improvement.


What caught my eye was how the device actually connects to your smart phone. You need a Ryobi PhoneWorks app installed and this application will ask for access to your camera and your photos on the phone. I allowed it. Then, in reading the device instructions, I was to turn on the device then connect to the "PhoneWorksScope######" Wi-Fi access point. It appears that each handheld device generates its own hotspot with a unique hex suffix so that each device is different. The Wi-Fi access point is protected by WPA/PSK encryption, but the default password is "123456768".


After connecting, I decided to investigate the connection further. My iPhone showed an IP address of with a default gateway of It was obvious that I would turn on the laptop and connect to the same access point. The laptop was given an IP address of, so there is a DHCP service running.


Next, I turned my browser on both the phone and the laptop to and was prompted by a web server for a username and password. The logical choice is ADMIN and ADMIN, and it worked! Wireshark reported that it was the BOA 0.94 web server running a non-secure TCP http connection on port 80. Wireshark also reported numerous UDP connection attempts from the device to the iPhone ( across a range of ports.


Ryobi PhoneWorks web server


On the web server, I saw many Chinese characters and was able to understand them using the Line Chinese-English Dictionary at, where you can draw a character to help you determine which character it represents. This was my first time using this site, but I will definitely bookmark it. They have a great product, and highly recommend trying it.


The above image shows the second tab from the left hand menu... the web server on the device was able to sniff local Wi-Fi access points and reported my home network on the list. I have NOT tried to connect yet and will set up a dummy network to see if the device will automatically connect to an open network or if the device can be connected to a protected network. I will also watch the packets to see if any information leaves the network for an outside web server.


I will have more later, but here are a few open questions:
1) With the application running on the phone and listening on ports, what information can be pulled from the phone even when you are not actively using the application?
2) Will an application running in the background allow UDP connections on those ports to gain access to photos on the phone?
3)With the device running as designed, can an attacker gain access to photos or information on the phone since the SSID and password are known and there is no authentication between the phone and the device?


The Turbulent Age of Information Security

How InfoSec in 2015 is Like the Airline Industry in 1977

I have been flying in some form or another for near 30 years, but I have been in the tech space for a few years longer. As a flying professional, I was responsible for not only my own life in the air, but also the lives of those around me in the aircraft, those on the ground should there be an accident, and those who have a financial interest in the aircraft for that day. It is mind-numbing to think that an aluminum tube with a few hundred people can be flung through the air, full of highly-flammable fuel, with two or more controlled fires out the back providing the thrust to push said vessel to an altitude in which humans cannot survive but for just a few seconds. It takes a certain skillset of knowledge, responsibility, aptitude, foresight, and coordination for airplane crew to successfully make a controlled crash on a runway (commonly referred to as a “landing”) and call the fight a “success”.

But it wasn’t always that way. People died. People died in the air as well as those on the ground. It was tragic and sad for families left behind. It was especially difficult to accept because the pilot was most likely the cause of an accident. When the pilot was not at fault, a maintainer, a controller, or an engineer was at fault for some incorrect action or for the lack of some correct action. Seldom did an aircraft just give up on flying. At their heart, an airplane wants to fly and human actions typically cause crashes. When technology increased speed limits, altitude capabilities, or navigation complexity, the human is the weak link.

This was especially true when technology grew at exponential rates during key phases of our last 100+ years of powered flight. When Orville & Wilbur first started, there were very few accidents. They were risky in thinking that mankind was capable of flying, but they knew the risks and took care where they felt necessary. As flying expanded to more enthusiasts, hobbyists, and idiots, you can expect air accidents to increase, and they did until the beginning of World War II. At that point, there was a significant increase in technology thanks to the global war machine pumping huge amounts of dollars and pounds into every performance edge that could be achieved at that time. Technology increased and so did accident rates. We learned more about the human body… weaknesses that always existed, but that we never realized until they were tested. Why would a pilot “wake up” while flying? Hypoxia was being understood at super-high altitudes and high g-forces (the force exerted on an airplane and pilot when making a turn) were exceeding the limits of the human body version 1.0. The Aircraft Crashes Record Office, based out of Geneva, publishes the “Accident Rate per Year”1 and shows these accident rates spike during the war. Even though there is a sharp decrease following the end of hostilities, accident rates remained slightly elevated from pre-war levels into the 1960s.

During this decade, the commercial aviation business began to gain significant momentum. The De Havilland Comet began the jet-powered commercial industry in the mid-50s, but with the advent of major air carriers and the affordability of travel, more airliners were streaking from coast to coast. Unfortunately, you can predict the new technology of larger airliners, more complex navigational systems, and the grind of corporate profits would result in misperceptions, distractions, and personality conflicts. Accidents followed the trend and yes, people died.

This upward trend continued into the 1970s with two accidents in particular that show were a safety feature and other new technologies actually contributed to the accidents. In December 1972, Eastern Airlines Flight 401 crashed in a Florida swamp as the crew was troubleshooting a faulting landing gear indication bulb. Seriously… as crazy as this may sound, a $2 bulb *contributed* to the accident. I will deviate from some standard designations in the aviation community and not say that it caused the accident, because the inaction of the pilot and crew who were distracted by the bulb failed to properly maintain altitude resulting in the crash; the light bulb didn’t do anything wrong. The technology simply failed and the system was too complex for the crew at that time of night and under those conditions to accurately diagnose easily, and there was no clear delineation as to who was assigned to fly the aircraft. The autopilot kicked offline and the aircraft started a slow descent to alligator-infested waters at nearly 200mph.

Fast forward to 1978 in Portland, Oregon. United Airlines Flight 173 was making an approach to the runway when another landing gear malfunction forced the crew into a holding pattern to evaluate the cause and possible courses of action they should take. Better fuel planning, longer flights, more complex systems, and inevitable malfunctions of a system put the crew in a difficult position. There was a breakdown in managing the aircraft while the crew was troubleshooting the problem, and the aircraft eventually ran out of fuel short of the runway.

That was the airline industry in 1978. It would be another three years before United would implement the first “Crew Resource Management” (CRM)2 program for their entire fleet of pilots and engineers. CRM helps manage the crew for the pre-mission planning and the duration of a flight. CRM provides a framework to delegate roles and responsibilities, as well as an orderly flow of information and techniques for critical safety step conformation. As the industry adopted and refined CRM, the number of accidents stayed at or below the 1981 rate, and there has been a significant decrease in annual accidents each year since even with the advent of ultra-high-tech aircraft seeing more daily operations. Today, the annual accident numbers are less than 150 per year for the past few years, which is almost half of the 345 in 1978.

Source: Aircraft Crashes Record Office “Accident Rate per Year”1

So why is InfoSec like the airline industry in 1978? Since the dot-com bubble of the 1990s, there has been a significant increase in information technology, which expanded in more in scope in the 2010s thanks to the onslaught of social media. Before anyone cared about listening to your hourly playlist status or seeing a photograph of what you had for lunch, technology existed along with the inherent flaws associated with those chip sets, operating systems, applications, network protocols and encryption (if there was any at all). As people became more digitally connected, the ability for others to exploit functional flaws in design or to exploit human nature flaws prevalent in social engineering attacks gave the bad guys and some good guys more attack avenues into your personal life or your personal information stored on someone else’s IT infrastructure.

Each day, we see more and more information leaked from the Office of Personnel Management, Adult Friend Finder, Ashley Madison, Sony Pictures, Anthem, Premera, and the list goes on and on. Will next year be worse than 2015 with the number of hacks or the depth of data stolen? We just discovered a critical hack in certain Chrysler models from an unsecured network feature. How many people would have bought the vehicle if they knew the car was constantly connected to a monitoring network with no documentation to show exactly how it worked? Isn’t technology growing faster than we, the users (pilots) of technology can effectively and safely use? Are we fed up with the loss of information to data thieves? Will we eventually develop the techniques to effectively manage our digital information passengers?

My answer is a definite “maybe”.

The airline industry implemented many programs during this time but none were as successful as CRM. They didn’t know it at the time, and it wasn’t until data showed a few years’ worth of improvements before the rest of the industry fully adopted the idea. Over a couple of decades, the paying public can rest assured that flying is much safer than it was ever before. That does not mean that accidents cannot or will not happen—flying is inherently dangerous and we should never take it for granted. There is little room for error, but pilots are paid to accurately manage the risk and they do so in part through a formal Crew Resource Management program.

But I do not think we are in the InfoSec-date 1978 yet. We are still in 1977 or earlier because we, as an information sharing community, have not developed the tools, techniques, and mindset to accurately address IT data risks going forward. The concept that the user is the weakest link should be apparent to everyone in the design and security world, but end users continue to makes mistakes just as often as software developers, network engineers, and executive management teams. Also, the world continues to see exponential growth in technology and networking. Each new social media site, each new smart phone, and each new networking service presents a measured threat increase, but since we do not fully grasp the consequences of new threats, nor do we have an absolute framework to address them, major data breeches will continue to increase. With the coming wave of the “Internet of Things”, I predict even stranger information system hacks will flood the tabloid headlines as smart network refrigerators and mesh network lightbulbs show up in more and more homes. We are close to rounding the corner into 1978 because the inflammatory headlines are starting to show the disgust and hopeful contraction of the free sharing of personal information along with the need for better security.

When people have finally had enough and the risk-return profile is not in the window for corporate profits, you will see a fundamental change in the way we address InfoSec and I think we already know the first step of that process. It all begins with asking ourselves, “who is in charge of crisis management in the next hacking attempt?” Security people are starting to forge relationships with management and design teams. Those groups are seeing the results of poor design and poor implementation. I smile when I hear that system features are built around a solid foundation of security, because I think that the best preventative measure is to not let the threat happen in the first place. Also, it is more difficult to build security around a software suite after it is built than by design the software with security in mind. With more security professionals in the development process and more company executives embracing security, if not already security professionals themselves, I think that will be the natural path of how we can lower the number of security accidents/incidents. But we will not know the results of our mitigation for many years. Until then, we have to expect more massive data breeches.

Crew Resource Management is not the answer and neither are compliance frameworks, Federal programs, or the U.S. Digital Service.  Oversight does little except add complexity and drives management and engineers to doing the minimum amount required.  Broader ideas like better user interface design and more secure transmit and security protocol usage will help the case to protect data.  But you will never hear about data protection successes and you will always hear about the failures, because this is a thankless industry, just like the airlines. Every flight is expected to be on time, in smooth air, and exactly at the perfect time of day. In the security space, client data is expected to be protected, use authorized and users authenticated.

One thing is certain though: security leaks will happen. People may not die, but information will be lost that can never be recovered again. Let’s just hope the numbers go down sooner rather than later.

(1)    “Accident Rate per Year” retrieved 27 July 2015 from
(2)    “Crew Resource Management” retrieved 27 July 2015 from
This document may be distributed and reproduced provided the entire document is released unaltered, without overprint, and with full attribution to the author.
Barry Coggins
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you can spy on your kids, so can everyone else

Downloaded from a parent, I want to be actively involved on how my kids interact with the world and how the world interacts with them.  Whether these interactions are on the sports field, the academic classroom, the religious centers, or in the online world, I want to set the best environment I can then let me kids wander freely.  This doesn't mean that I control their every action, nor does it mean that the walls are padded and the food sterile... it simply means that I will not tolerate sporting parents to badmouth from the sidelines; I will not tolerate academic environments that simply disregard science or those that use the phrase "97% of scientists agree therefore so should you"; I will not tolerate a religious or spiritual environment that is not all-inclusive; and I certainly will not tolerate online predators, scam artists, thieves, or others wishing to take advantage of me of my kids.

I've had notes on this data breech for a few weeks now and have put some serious thought into how I justify not actively monitoring my kids online. If I'm at a soccer game, I can simply take the kids to a different club if I hear other parents destroying the game.  I can change schools or churches if I detect some philosophy that goes against my desires to give my kids all the tools they need.  But how do you monitor online use to know if your kids are being abused online?  That was my first approach to this thought, but I think I had the wrong frame of reference. 

In my other examples, I wouldn't simply join a soccer club then monitor the behaviors -- I would research more about the club before I joined.  Afterward, I wouldn't actively seek out those traits I do not like, because you're guaranteed to find them.  However, if those traits surface enough that I recognize them, they aren't the traits I want around my kids, and then I leave.

The same goes for online activity.  I wouldn't simply plug in a router and a laptop and say "have fun".  I would set the environment through research and monitor for anything that makes me concerned.  In this case, I would build a separate net for the kids and have their devices only connect to that protected network. I can easily set up parental controls like time of use and content filters to definitely keep out "accidental" clicks for data.  I would also teach my kids how to use the web so they know what it means to "click here to claim your $1,000 gift card" or download a game from an untrusted source.  I would also tape over the web cameras... all of them... do it! Do it now!

One thing I would NOT do is to install monitoring software on their devices.  You would think that at any time, you could simply open your app and see what your kids are doing online.  Truth is, you would probably miss all the subtleties of the generational gap and given the 24 hours in a day, you would miss the 10 minutes they are looking at inappropriate content.  You would also miss the fact that since you can see what your kids are doing, so can everyone else.

"...where hundreds of gigabytes of files, chat logs, location records and other data was dumped after the company reportedly declined to comply with extortion demands made by hackers who’d broken into mSpy’s servers. Included in that huge archive is a 13 gigabyte (compressed) directory referencing countless screen shots taken from devices running mSpy’s software — including screen shots taken secretly by users who installed the software on a friend or partner’s device."

We seem to fail to grasp the concept that anything online will be online forever and that access to data by one person means that it is physically possible for another person to see that same data.  In the wrong hands, your kids' photos, snapchats, conversations, contacts, email addresses, telephone numbers, *LOCATION DATA*, and other identifying information can be spread around the world with a simple post to a message board.  I'm not worried about some pervert on another continent, I'm worried about the pervert that realizes the geolocation data is 3 miles away.  I'm worried that high-end thieves are scouring that same data build intelligence models for a property or an area so they know when to strike.  I'm worried about future employers doing social media scans and not hiring because of data that was leaked online under the pure intent of protecting my kids.

So I am against actively monitoring your kids.  I would suggest other ways to get much better information about them as people... talk to them.  Ask questions about what they do online.  Get specific information about people, places, and information they encounter.  If there is a problem, you will know it through direct admission or through obvious ambiguity. I wouldn't take the chance of providing the information to someone you don't ever want to have access to this information.

If you have questions of concerns about how you can protect your kids online, please contact me.  I offer seminars for church groups, schools, and other organizations where parents want to be in charge of their family's online safety.


For more stories about data leaks from online monitoring, please visit [Article image downloaded 14 June 2015]

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