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Researchers have developed a proof-of-concept worm they say can rip through Philips Hue lightbulbs across entire cities – causing the insecure web-connected globes to flick on and off.

The software nasty, detailed in a paper titled IoT Goes Nuclear: Creating a ZigBee Chain Reaction [PDF], exploits hardcoded symmetric encryption keys to control devices over Zigbee wireless networks. This allows the malware to compromise a single light globe from up to 400 metres away.

The worm can then spread from a single smart bulb to those nearby thanks to the use of these skeleton keys.

The attack is the handiwork of researchers Eyal Ronen, Adi Shamir, and Achi-Or Weingarten of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, along with Colin O’Flynn of Dalhousie University, Canada.

It triggered Philips to release a firmware patch for owners of its “Hue” connected bulbs. This is not without some risk as users must first set up the Philips Hue app in order to receive the automatic patches, and do so before attacks take place since the worm can easily override update attempts.

Comment: Why they call these smart devices is beyond me. Not have rock solid security is pure stupidity. Oh wait, we are talking of IoT security.