Thursday, April 18, 2024

TP-Link Privacy Violation: Router Sends Data To 3rd Parties Without Consent

China’s network equipment manufacturer TP-Link Router is also a German antivirus software company Avira “We are developing a security service in partnership with Avira”. However, there is a report posted on Reddit on the overseas bulletin board that “TP-Link routers are sending a large amount of traffic to Avira’s server even if related services are turned off.” It has become a hot topic.

Privacy Concerns, Violation of GDPR.

TP-Link Routers Send ALL Your Web Traffic To 3rd Party Servers

I recently enabled a DNS gateway to be able to see requests from my router, and network devices. Was surprised to find 80K + requests (in 24 hours) out to an Avira “Safe Things” subdomains *.safethings.avira.com (far more than any other server).

Digging into this more, I found that it is related to the built-in router security “Home Shield” that ships with newer TP-Link routers – https://oem[.]avira.com/en/solutions/safethings-for-router-manufacturers

Here is the kicker though, I have the Avira / Home Shield services completely turned off (I wasn’t even subscribed to their paid service for it). The router doesn’t care, and sends ALL your traffic to be “analyzed” anyhow. See this response from TP Link (towards bottom of review) from last year – https://www.xda-developers[.]com/tp-link-deco-x68-review/#:~:text=TP%2DLink%20says%20the%20network%20activity Update: I emailed reviewer to confirm TP-Link never updated him after.

I contacted support about this again, and was given a non-answer about how the requests are to check subscription status. 80K + requests a day to check subscription status? Also the rate of requests is not constant, it is higher when my internet traffic is higher. To me this lack of consistent answer / response from TP-Link is as concerning as the requests themselves.

I’m not seeing much online about this issue, as I don’t think many people realize it is even occurring (since traffic is outgoing straight from router, as opposed to an individual computer). Hoping to gain some attention on this issue and get a real answer / response from TP-Link about what exactly is going on here. As well as a concrete timeline and promise for a fix to stop these outgoing requests, when we aren’t even using their anti-virus services.

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Edit: Additional details, this is on their WiFI 6 AX3000 (Archer AX55) Router. From the XDA Review looks like this is also happening on their Deco series. If you want to easily check your own router, you can use any DNS Gateway (NextDNSCloudflare Gateway Pi-Hole etc.) Just be sure to set the DNS servers under “Advanced->Network->Internet->Advanced Settings” because the DHCP DNS server setting will only apply to the devices inside the network, not the router itself.

Edit #2: I’ve also contacted Avira directly regarding the endpoints, in the hope that they’ll be more straightforward than TP-Link about the purpose. Will update here when I receive a response.

Edit #3: If anyone knows of good industry contacts, who can dig into this more or get real answers, please send a message! I’ve seen GamerNexus brought up a few times, but don’t see any contact method.

Comment from user on reddit, no source: TP-Link says the network activity is due to “the Avira cloud data base [distinguishing] whether [the network request is] secure data or malware.” A firmware update is in the works that will turn this functionality off if no Avira network features are enabled in the app, but there is no estimated timeline for that yet.

transcribed from reddit

Our Conclusion

At this time, we are yet to fully conclude this, however, it is very clear that this device sends user data to a third party without permission/consent. This would be a clear violation, at the very least of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules. Germany-based Avira said it would have to modify its services because it needs to be GDPR compliant.

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source

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Steven Black (n0tst3)
Hello! I'm Steve, an independent security researcher, and analyst from Scotland, UK. I've had an avid interest in Computers, Technology and Security since my early teens. 20 years on, and, it's a whole lot more complicated... I've assisted Governments, Individuals and Organizations throughout the world. Including; US DOJ, NHS UK, GOV UK. I'll often reblog infosec-related articles that I find interesting. On the RiSec website, You'll also find a variety of write-ups, tutorials and much more!

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