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FreeRTOS Vulnerabilities Expose Many Systems to Attacks

Vulnerabilities discovered in the FreeRTOS operating system can expose a wide range of systems to attacks, including smart home devices and critical infrastructure, researchers warn.

FreeRTOS is an open source operating system designed specifically for microcontrollers. The OS has many use cases, including industrial applications (sensors, actuators, pumps), B2B solutions (security equipment, door locks), and consumer products (home appliances, wearable technology). Amazon, which took over the FreeRTOS project in 2017, has added cloud connectivity capabilities.freeRTOS vulnerabilities found

The commercial version of the operating system is called OpenRTOS and it’s maintained by WITTENSTEIN high integrity systems (WHIS), which also develops the safety-focused version SafeRTOS.

Researchers from Zimperium’s zLabs have analyzed FreeRTOS’s TCP/IP stack and AWS secure connectivity modules, and discovered more than a dozen vulnerabilities that also impact OpenRTOS and SafeRTOS.

Both Amazon and WHIS have developed patches for the flaws discovered by zLabs. Amazon addressed the issues with the release of FreeRTOS 1.3.2.

Since it’s an open source project, the mobile cybersecurity firm has decided not to disclose any vulnerability details for another 30 days to allow vendors to deploy the patches.

The company did, however, share some limited information about each of the flaws it discovered. The list includes four remote code execution, one denial-of-service (DoS), and seven information leakage issues.

“These vulnerabilities allow an attacker to crash the device, leak information from the device’s memory, and remotely execute code on it, thus completely compromising it,” zLabs said in a blog post.

Since FreeRTOS is used by a wide range of systems, the vulnerabilities found by Zimperium researchers can be highly useful to malicious actors, including cybercriminals trying to build botnets powered by home device, and sophisticated threat actors looking to target critical infrastructure.

Related: The Path to Securing IoT Ecosystems Starts at the Network

Related: Critical Vulnerability Impacts Hundreds of Thousands of IoT Cameras

Related: Addressing IoT Device Security Head-on

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.