To prevent hacking, disable Universal Plug and Play now

Security experts are advising that a networking feature known as Universal Plug and Play be disabled on routers, printers, and cameras, after finding it makes tens of millions of Internet-connected devices vulnerable to serious attack.

UPnP, as the feature is often abbreviated, is designed to make it easy for computers to connect to Internet gear by providing code that helps devices automatically discover each other over a local network. That often eliminates the hassle of figuring out how to configure devices the first time they're connected. But UPnP can also make life easier for attackers half a world away who want to compromise a home computer or breach a business network, according to a white paper published Tuesday by researchers from security firm Rapid7.

Over a five-and-a-half-month period last year, the researchers scanned every routable IPv4 address about once a week. They identified 81 million unique addresses that responded to standard UPnP discovery requests, even though the standard isn't supposed to communicate with devices that are outside a local network. Further scans revealed 17 million addresses exposed UPnP services built on the open standard known as SOAP, short for simple object access protocol. By broadcasting the service to the Internet at large, the devices can make it possible for attackers to bypass firewall protections.

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