Homelab Chronicles 08: Investigating the Incident

(Continued from Homelab Chronicles 07).

From the moment I woke up, through work, and into the afternoon, I was constantly monitoring my network. I have the Unifi app on my phone, so it was easy to see the list of clients connected to WiFi. Luckily, nothing unexpected connected.

At this point, I assumed my neighborly adversary (adversarial neighbor?) knew they had been caught. The WiFi network they had connected to had disappeared overnight, as did my similarly named “main” one. In its place, a new SSID would pop up on “Emily’s iPad” when they tried to connect, with a name that wasn’t mean, crude, or insulting, but one with a subtle message that basically says, “I see you and I know what you did.”

I forgot to mention that my main WLAN has always used WPA2/WPA3 for authenticating. I think there are ways to crack WPA2, but I’ll get into that in the future.

Once I got home, I jumped back onto the Unifi Controller to see what information I could glean. Having “fancy” Ubiquiti Unifi gear means the platform records and stores a lot more information than the average household router. I mentioned in the previous Chronicle that the Controller can tell me the device manufacturer by looking up MAC addresses. I can also see connection histories. With packet sniffing and traffic analysis tools, I can also see general traffic usage, i.e. where they were going.

So when did they first get on my network?

Unifi gives alerts when devices disconnect and connect. I silenced these alerts, because that’d be annoying for as many devices I have, but it records these nonetheless. It also shows the last 5 times a device connected, along with a duration. Most of the unauthorized devices appeared to have connected within the last 10-14 days. However, I did see one device with a recorded connection date around 20 days ago. It was connected for 13 days straight. It had “Amazon” in the hostname, so I’m assuming it’s some kind of smart home device that’s always on.

Sadly, because my server, and therefore Controller, was turned off to save on AC and electricity costs, there are large gaps in the 2-3 month history. It’s possible the devices were connected further back than 20 days ago. But that “Amazon” device only had two entries; 20 days ago and then overnight when I powercycled the WAP. So I’m assuming that nearly 3 weeks ago was when they first cracked the password.

Where did they go or what did they do?

Naturally, my next bit of curiosity was wanting to know what they were doing while connected. I needed to know if the adversaries were doing illegal things. Were they engaged in piracy? I don’t need a(nother) copyright strike on my ISP records! I hope to god they weren’t doing anything more illegal than that.

The Insights tab for the blocked devices showed me generally what they were doing. And it was mostly mundane, everyday stuff. Lots of streaming content from YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, etc. Looking at that “Amazon” device, I could see traffic entries for Hulu and Amazon Video. Maybe it’s not a smart home device, but instead a Fire Stick or Fire Tablet. Interestingly, I deduced they have a child: I found a traffic entry on a blocked device for Roblox, the popular kids game. I’m more of a Minecraft guy, myself.

Traffic sources for a single device in Unifi Console.
Roblox? Oof.

Looking at Internet traffic overall, I could see there were other devices that were connected prior to my discovery. The only ones I outright blocked were those that happened to be connected to WiFi at the time. There was traffic to Xbox gaming services, which was tied to a device with an appropriate hostname: XboxOne. It looked like they downloaded a game or update/patch since it was a sizable 1.75GB download.

List of top Internet traffic sources in Unifi Console.
Probably some Call of Duty “scrub noob.”

But overall, traffic was pretty low. Certainly not enough for me to notice Internet speed degradation. Helps that I have gigabit fiber.

It doesn’t look like they were engaging in torrenting of pirated material, but at the same time, I’m not familiar with how that would look in Unifi. There isn’t a “Torrenting” category of traffic that popped up and I don’t know if that exists. But given the overall low data usage, it doesn’t seem that way.

Is this a crime?

I do want to point out that what “Emily” did is highly illegal. They hacked/cracked their way into my network. Every state in the US has laws on the books about this, as does the federal government, I’m sure. But not only did they engage in unauthorized access to a network, they also used my Internet connection, that I pay for. That’s theft of services. I didn’t authorize “Emily” and their family to be on my network, nor did I allow them to use my Internet connection.

“Unauthorized access” entails approaching, trespassing within, communicating with, storing data in, retrieving data from, or otherwise intercepting and changing computer resources without consent. These laws relate to these and other actions that interfere with computers, systems, programs or networks.

National Conference of State Legislatures – Computer Crime Statutes

But then who would I report this to? And who would investigate this? My city PD and the state have more important things to worry about. I think.

Speaking of worry, because of how they entered the network, by cracking into it, I’m still worried about my computers. While one of my cybersecurity buddies introduced me to SIEMs a few months ago and had me install Wazuh on my server, I only have it monitoring one computer, the one I use the most. I have other computers that are on almost all the time that I don’t use as much. More importantly, I’m not anywhere near proficient enough to be able to analyze all the logs that Wazuh is collecting. As a result, I still need to figure out what I want or need to do about my computers. Were they able to gain access to them? Upload and run malicious code?

On the other hand, someone online that I talked to about this did mention that it was odd that they didn’t attempt to obfuscate their device names. So maybe they’re just a “script kiddie” that for some reason can’t or doesn’t want to pay for their own Internet like an adult.

Regardless, it still has me worried. And that’s the rub. Even though this was entirely digital, it feels the same as if someone physically broke in and entered my home without me knowing. And then stayed there, hidden away, in the attic.

As an introvert and a sort of hermit (Look, it’s hot and humid as hell out there!), my home is my sanctuary. I’m sure that’s true for everyone, introvert or not. But because I spend so much time on my computers for work and for leisure, that too is my “home,” as sad and ridiculous as that may sound. Same concept though; in this world we live in, our “digital life” through our devices and everything stored on them is important to each of us. Find me a person that would be OK with someone “rifling” through their cell phone. Or OK with someone posting even a silly status on their Facebook or Twitter behind their back. Some people don’t even want their family or significant others to look through their phone, much less a stranger. My privacy has been invaded and my feeling of safety, shattered. It sounds dramatic, but it’s true.

I still have work to clean this up. And I have some ideas. But I’ll get to that on my next post, Soon™, which will wrap this ‘incident’ up.

—To be continued.

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