MWR InfoSecurity has today detailed its research showing that, while a significant security effort has been put into hardening the BlackBerry platform, a number of QNX core components have not been subjected to as much scrutiny by the security research community. This research provides security professionals with a greater understanding of the platform and highlights where issues may exist in QNX based systems.
Speaking about the implications of the research, Alex Plaskett, Head of Technical Research of MWR explained, “QNX Neutrino is one of the most widely adopted real-time operating systems (RTOS) powering safety- and mission-critical devices from across a large number of heavy industries. Neutrino lies at the heart of power and nuclear plants, air traffic control systems, turbine controllers and warehouse control systems. QNX is also known to run on at least 50% of today's cars infotainment systems which is the reason QNX was once described by TIME magazine as the 'tech company that is to connected cars what Microsoft is to PCs’. Many of these platforms are safety or security critical, therefore weaknesses in QNX can have a significant impact to these systems.
“For an OS that is touted as being safety critical it did not stand up well to an attacker intentionally providing malicious input. Whilst the operating system itself is designed to be highly robust and fault tolerant, mistakes which are often found on other *NIX based platforms can be introduced into QNX too and together with QNX specific issues. QNX is certainly not vulnerability free and due to lack of information within the community about QNX security maintains a low profile.”
The number of critical processes powered by QNX, and the limited amount of public research, drove MWR to take a closer look at how QNX is different from any other major operating systems. It has worked with Blackberry to resolve the vulnerabilities and a paper, detailing MWRs research, is available here: https://labs.mwrinfosecurity.com/assets/BlogFiles/mwri-qnx-security-whitepaper-2016-03-14.pdf.
In addition, MWR has reported other vulnerabilities to Blackberry, which are currently being remediated, which will be detailed, once patches are available, here: http://labs.mwrinfosecurity.com.