A Pyrotechnic Composition: Fireworks, Embedded Wireless and Insecurity-by-Design


Fireworks are used around the world to salute popular events such as festivals, weddings, and public or private celebrations. Besides their entertaining effects fireworks are essentially colored explosives which are sometimes directly used as weapons. Modern fireworks systems heavily rely on `wireless pyrotechnic firing systems’. Those `embedded cyber-physical systems’ (ECPS) are able to remotely control pyrotechnic composition ignition. The failure to properly secure these computer sub-systems may have disastrous, if not deadly, consequences. They rely on standardized wireless communications, off the shelf embedded hardware and custom firmware.

In this short paper, we describe our experience in discovering and exploiting a wireless firing system in a short amount of time without any prior knowledge of such systems. In summary, we demonstrate our methodology starting from analysis of firmware, the discovery of vulnerabilities and finally by demonstrating a real world attack. Finally, we stress that the security of pyrotechnic firing systems should be considered seriously, which could be achieved through improved safety compliance requirements and control.

We acquired the actual device, we have developed the actual attack and successfully tested it on the real device. The particular device/vendor we analysed has more than 1000 customers in over 60 countries worldwide.

This talk will cover a mix of overlapping areas like:

– embedded/wireless/critical devices security
– unconventional malware
– reverse engineering

Location: Track 1 Date: October 16, 2014 Time: 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm Andrei Costin