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Huawei 3G and 4G Modems Leave Consumers Exposed, Researcher Says

A Russian security researcher accused China-based Huawei during a Black Hat Europe presentation last week of being slow to address security issues, stating that their 3G and 4G mobile broadband devices were vulnerable to attack due to problems with their update channel.

Nikita Tarakanov said during his presentation last week that one of Huawei’s servers in the Netherlands isn’t likely to be alone when it comes to running outdated software. The Netherlands server, which is responsible for delivering software updates to the 3G and 4G devices, runs IIS 6.0.

Tarakanov said that using such outdated software leaves the server seriously exposed and opens the door for attackers to use it as a staging platform for further attacks against millions users. The wide number of potential victims is due to the fact that Huawei’s update software installs an auto-update component on desktop systems that queries the Netherlands server every few minutes.

Assuming the Netherlands server was compromised, an attacker could attack the broadband devices several ways, from reconfiguration to use malicious DNS to rewriting the firmware to include malware.

Additional vulnerability testing wasn’t possible Tarakanov said, as laws within the Russian Federation prevent him from creating his own 3G base station. However, the fact that many third-party software drivers have previously been proven to vulnerable, means that an attack could be pulled off.

Huawei representatives, who were present during the talk, told Heise Security in an interview that they were not told about the talk’s contents beforehand, and that they assumed the server’s security was adequate.

However, they added, the company will begin looking for solutions to address the issue immediately, though there was no timeline listed.

Related: Routers from China's Huawei Vulnerable to Trivial Levels of Attack

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.