TP-Link Kasa App: SSL Verification Disabled (Fixed)

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The TP-Link Kasa app is the Android app that TP-Link distributes to control their Smart Home line of products, including IoT light bulbs, outlet and a home hub. TP-Link describes the app as:

The Kasa app works with Android and iOS devices so you can control your home right from your smartphone or tablet. You can also use Kasa to pair TP-Link smart home products with any Amazon Echo, Dot, Tap and The Google Assistant for voice control, giving you the ability to control your home with voice commands.

For an unknown period of time prior to December 2017, this control app performed no verification of SSL certificates when talking to TP-Link’s servers. This included during user signup, authentication, and control of individual devices in a user’s home.


In September 2017, I was tooling around looking for an IoT device to play with. My wife and I had joked about getting a “smart” light bulb for our bedroom so we wouldn’t have to get out of bed and turn off the light in the evenings. (And yes, it’s definitely a 1st world problem, as are all problems solved by smart home devices.) I was at Fry’s and came across the LB100 by TP-Link: a $20 “Smart” light bulb. This seemed to fit the bill perfectly: it was both cheap enough that I could buy it just to play around with, and if I liked it enough, we’d use it in the never-ending quest that is so classically American: do as little effort as possible.

I brought home the bulb and immediately put it on my network and installed the app. Actually, as happens so commonly, I brought home the bulb and put it on my “lab” network, and installed the app on my testing phone. I had recently reset the phone, so I was getting Burp Suite setup and was going to install the certificate in the phone when I already noticed traffic going to TP-Link’s servers!

At first I thought it must be HTTP traffic, perhaps for analytics or similar functions, but then I noticed it was indicated as HTTPS. I quickly did a double take and double-checked the phone did not have the Burp CA certificate. When I confirmed it didn’t, I realized I had an interesting finding without even giving the app a try.

Thinking they might have different configurations for different parts of the app, I went through the sign-up, login, device registration, and device control flows, all the while seeing my requests in Burp. They were all encrypted, but not once did the app seem to care about the lack of a valid SSL CA. I had no idea why this was, but decided I would try to reverse engineer the app to figure it out.

Unfortunately, my Android reverse engineering skills are about as sharp as an economy class airplane knife, so I had to turn to my friend @itsc0rg1, who is, quite fortunately, well versed in Android. She pointed me at a couple of decompilers and I got into it and discovered this (somewhat modified) code:

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private static void initializeSslConfig(com.tplinkra.iot.config.SSLConfig cfg) {
    if (cfg != null) {
        if (!com.tplinkra.common.utils.Utils.getDefault(cfg.getTrustAllCertificates(), 1)) {
        ...
        } else {
        com.tplinkra.network.transport.http.TrustAllCertificates.enable();
        }
    }
}

...

public static boolean getDefault(Boolean val, boolean default) {
    if (val != null) {
        default = val.booleanValue();
    }
    return default;
}

...

public static void enable() {
    javax.net.ssl.HttpsURLConnection.setDefaultHostnameVerifier(new com.tplinkra.network.transport.http.TrustAllCertificates());
}

It turns out that the default for cfg.getTrustAllCertificates() is a null value because it is not explicitly configured. The preference system being used by their application attempts to return the contents of a Boolean, and when that Boolean is null, defaults to true, which results in trusting all SSL certificates!


Timeline

The issue was reported to TP-Link on the 20th of September 2017. They promptly acknowledge the issue and asked that I not disclose until their December release. Once the new year rolled around, I reached out to my contact there and they confirmed the issue had been fixed in the December release, which appears to have been around 22nd December. The release notes do not mention the security fix, so I consider this a “silent fix”.

Kudos to TP-Link for fixing the issue – many IoT companies do not stand behind their products, so although they had a flaw, they dealt with it when it was reported.