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What is UPnP and is it Safe in 2023?

what is upnp

UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) is a set of networking protocols that allows devices to automatically discover and connect to each other on a network. UPnP is designed to make it easy for devices to communicate with each other and share information, without the need for manual configuration.

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What is UPnP?

UPnP is typically used in home networks to enable devices such as computers, smartphones, gaming consoles, and smart TVs to discover and connect to each other. For example, a UPnP-enabled printer can be automatically discovered by a computer on the same network, so that the computer can use the printer without the need to manually configure it.

UPnP is based on the Internet Protocol (IP) and uses a combination of multicast Domain Name System (mDNS) and Simple Service Discovery Protocol (SSDP) to discover and connect devices. When a UPnP-enabled device is connected to a network, it sends out a broadcast message announcing its presence and capabilities. Other devices on the network can then receive this message and use the information to connect to the device.

UPnP has security vulnerabilities as well, because it allows devices to open ports on a router automatically, making it more vulnerable to attacks. UPnP can be used by attackers to gain unauthorized access to a network and control devices on it. It’s important to secure your router, by disabling UPnP feature and use a firewall to protect your network from outside attacks.

It’s also important to keep your devices up-to-date with the latest firmware updates to prevent vulnerabilities. This can help protect your network from known vulnerabilities and ensure that your devices continue to work well with UPnP.

The UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) service enables devices connected to the same local network to automatically find one another and establish connections using common networking protocols (such TCP/IP, HTTP, and DHCP). Printers, gaming consoles, WiFi devices, IP cameras, routers, mobile devices, and Smart TVs are a few examples of UPnP gadgets.

To enable the connecting of devices outside of a network, UPnP can also alter router settings to allow ports into a firewall.

By automatically forwarding router ports to new devices, this solution decreases the complexity of networking devices and eliminates the inconvenience of manual port forwarding.

But there may be serious security dangers associated with this convenience.

Is UPnP Safe?

UPnP allows devices to automatically open ports on a router, which can make it more vulnerable to attacks. If a malicious actor gains access to a device on a network that uses UPnP, they can use the protocol to open ports on the router, allowing them to gain unauthorized access to the network and control devices on it.

Additionally, UPnP can be used to bypass firewalls, which can also make it easier for attackers to gain access to a network.

It’s important to keep your devices updated with the latest firmware updates to prevent vulnerabilities. This can help protect your network from known vulnerabilities and ensure that your devices continue to work well with UPnP.

It’s also important to secure your router, by disabling UPnP feature and use a firewall to protect your network from outside attacks.

In summary, UPnP can be safe to use if it’s properly configured and secured, and if devices on the network are kept up-to-date with the latest firmware updates. However, if not properly secured, UPnP can be a security risk, and it’s recommended to consider if it’s necessary to use it or not.

If the UPnP service creates connections with malware-infected devices, it becomes risky. DDoS attacks are made possible by such connections.

But the established network is secure when UPnP permits connections from safedevices. So the UPnP technology was created with safety in mind. Only when infected devices are involved does it become harmful.

Zero-configuration is a feature of UPnP, which means that no human authentication is necessary to create a connection. When a UPnP request is received, ports are immediately forwarded to establish a connection. It becomes obvious how simple it is for the creation of infected connections to go out of control with such an independent and flexible networking mechanism.

Should I Enable UPnP?

It’s best security practise to disable UPnP because it can be so hard to tell if a potential connection will help spread malware.

It is preferable to manually forward each port if port forwarding is a need (for example, if you utilise VoIP programmes, peer-to-peer apps, game servers, etc.). This gives you more control over each connection that is made.

Most new routers have UPnP activated by default, and many customers are unaware that they could become infected with malware or have their data compromised.

The graph below shows the proportion of devices in each category that have UPnP enabled compared to the total number of devices under analysis. As you can see, the likelihood of a UPnP attack targeting a router is the highest.

Whether or not to enable UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) depends on your specific use case and the security of your network.

UPnP can be useful for home networks, as it allows devices to automatically discover and connect to each other, making it easy to share files and devices such as printers. It also makes it easy to set up online gaming or streaming services.

However, UPnP has security vulnerabilities that can make it risky to use in certain situations. UPnP allows devices to automatically open ports on a router, which can make it more vulnerable to attacks. If a malicious actor gains access to a device on a network that uses UPnP, they can use the protocol to open ports on the router, allowing them to gain unauthorized access to the network and control devices on it.

If you’re concerned about security, you should consider disabling UPnP on your router and manually configuring port forwarding for specific devices that require it. This will give you more control over which devices can access your network and reduce the risk of unauthorized access.

Additionally, it’s important to keep your devices updated with the latest firmware updates to prevent vulnerabilities. This can help protect your network from known vulnerabilities and ensure that your devices continue to work well with UPnP.

Is UPnP Dangerous?

The UPnP protocol can enable unsafe connections even though it is secure. Devices with serious vulnerabilities can be able to connect to your network and sensitive resources using the UPnP protocol.

Following a hack in 2013 that affected tens of millions of devices, the US Department of Homeland Security advised all organisations to turn down their UPnP. Despite the fact that this occurred roughly 8 years ago, UPnP-related intrusions are still being found today.

The complete attack surface connected to a UPnP connection needs to be kept up to speed with the most recent fixes in order to stop such contagious connections from happening. This covers all IoT (Internet of Things) devices that must be connected as well as routers, firewalls, antivirus software, and other similar tools.

For well-known hardware and software products, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) maintains a list of Common Vulnerability Exposures (CVEs) that is regularly updated. To stay informed of any new patch requirements affecting current or potential UPnP connections, security teams should frequently consult this list.

You can access the NIST national vulnerability database here.

On the website of Carnegie Mellon University, you can get further information about UPnP-specific vulnerabilities.

If you still want to keep UPnP enabled despite the very real concerns, please refer to the Open Connectivity Framework’s updated UPnP security requirements.

UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) is a set of networking protocols that allows devices to automatically discover and connect to each other on a network, it’s not inherently dangerous, but it can pose a security risk if not properly configured and secured.

UPnP allows devices to automatically open ports on a router, which can make it more vulnerable to attacks. If a malicious actor gains access to a device on a network that uses UPnP, they can use the protocol to open ports on the router, allowing them to gain unauthorized access to the network and control devices on it. This can lead to data breaches, cyber espionage, and other cyber attacks.

Additionally, UPnP can be used to bypass firewalls, which can also make it easier for attackers to gain access to a network.

UPnP can also be used to spread malware and other malicious software. Malicious software can use UPnP to open ports on a router, allowing it to spread to other devices on the network.

It’s important to keep your devices updated with the latest firmware updates to prevent vulnerabilities. This can help protect your network from known vulnerabilities and ensure that your devices continue to work well with UPnP.

It’s also important to secure your router, by disabling UPnP feature and use a firewall to protect your network from outside attacks.

How to Disable UPnP ?

The process for disabling UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) on a router can vary depending on the make and model of the router. Here are some general steps to disable UPnP on a router:

  1. Connect to your router: You will need to connect to your router either by using an Ethernet cable to connect your computer directly to the router, or by connecting to the router wirelessly.
  2. Open your web browser and enter the router’s IP address into the address bar. The IP address is usually located on the router itself or in the documentation that came with it.
  3. Log in: You will need to enter the username and password to access the router’s settings. If you haven’t changed the default login, you can find the default login information in the router’s documentation or by searching for the make and model of your router online.
  4. Find the UPnP settings: Look for the UPnP settings in the router’s advanced or security settings. The location of the settings can vary depending on the router.
  5. Disable UPnP: Look for an option to disable or turn off UPnP and select it. Some routers may have a simple on/off toggle switch, while others may require you to uncheck a box or select “disable” from a menu.
  6. Save the changes: Once you’ve disabled UPnP, you’ll need to save the changes. This is usually done by clicking on a save or apply button.
  7. Reboot the router: After disabling UPnP, it’s always a good idea to reboot the router to ensure the changes take effect.

How Can Cyber Attackers Exploit UPnP?

Generally speaking, router security measures are quite effective at preventing malicious external connections, and a current firewall strengthens this resistance. However, by allowing unwanted devices to ‘poke holes’ through firewall restrictions to create persistent harmful connections, UPnP is able to get beyond these security obstacles.

Such an attack starts with the introduction of malware, which frequently happens via a phishing effort. A Trojan (or worm) that has been secretly deployed bypasses the router’s firewall to create a covert backdoor that gives cybercriminals 24/7 remote access.

Backdoors can go unnoticed for several months, giving cybercriminals plenty of opportunity to cause significant harm.

Cyber attackers can exploit UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) in several ways:

  1. Port scanning: Attackers can use UPnP to scan for open ports on a router, allowing them to find vulnerable devices and services on a network.
  2. b UPnP allows devices to automatically open ports on a router, and attackers can use this to map open ports on the router and gain unauthorized access to the network.
  3. Remote code execution: Attackers can use UPnP to execute code on a device or router, allowing them to take control of the device or steal information.
  4. Amplification attacks: Attackers can use UPnP to amplify the traffic sent to a targeted device, in order to overload it and cause a Denial of Service (DoS) attack.
  5. Spreading malware: UPnP can be used to spread malware and other malicious software on a network. Malicious software can use UPnP to open ports on a router, allowing it to spread to other devices on the network.
  6. Bypassing firewalls: UPnP can be used to bypass firewalls, which can make it easier for attackers to gain access to a network.

Examples of UPnP Cyberattacks ?

Here are a few examples of UPnP cyberattacks:

  1. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks: Attackers can use UPnP to scan for open ports on a router, and then use that information to launch DDoS attacks that overload a targeted device or network.
  2. Remote code execution: Attackers can use UPnP to execute code on a device or router, allowing them to take control of the device and steal sensitive information.
  3. Opening Backdoors: Attackers can use UPnP to open a port on a router and connect to it remotely, allowing them to gain unauthorized access to the network and control devices on it.
  4. Spreading malware: UPnP can be used to spread malware and other malicious software on a network. Malicious software can use UPnP to open ports on a router, allowing it to spread to other devices on the network.
  5. Amplification attacks: Attackers can use UPnP to amplify the traffic sent to a targeted device, in order to overload it and cause a Denial of Service (DoS) attack.
  6. Bypassing firewalls: UPnP can be used to bypass firewalls, which can make it easier for attackers to gain access to a network.

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