5/24/2019
10:25 AM
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb

Zscaler Finds Security Issues Galore in IoT Traffic

The use of plain-text HTTP communication, outdated libraries and weak default credentials all rang alarm bells.



Zscaler's ThreatLabZ took a look at one month of data for IoT device footprints which were based in the Zscaler cloud. They came up with a reportthat they have released this week which is a snapshot of the protocols the devices used, the locations of the servers with which they communicated, and the frequency of their inbound and outbound communications.

This idea was to see what was going on with IoT traffic patterns. Showing how widespread IoT adoption has become, the devices that they found passing information around were sort of prosaic in their functions.

The IoT devices seen most often in the Zscaler cloud were set-top boxes (generally used for decoding video), followed by smart TVs, smart watches, media players and printers.

They saw 109 different set-top box device profiles from 68 manufacturers, including AerialBox, Alfawise, Amazon, Amlogic, Apple, Beelink, BenQ, Bomix, Bqeel, Foxtel Now and Google.

The enterprise -- somewhat surprisingly -- also had a strong presence in DVR traffic. Here, a DVR is defined as a network-connected smart device used for recording and playing back digital videos. They found three manufacturers: TVT, EverFocus, and DIRECT TV.

Looking at just transactions, data collection terminals were the most active devices across all the categories. The terminals made up more than 80% of the IoT traffic that Zscaler found. The report identified a total of 20 unique data collection terminals from five manufacturers: Chainway, Coppernic, Honeywell, Motorola and Zebra.

If the terminals are ignored, printing devices became the most active category of devices in the transaction analysis. The report found that more than 51% of the remaining IoT transactions were coming from this single category.

They also found devices used for different types of industrial control systems and associated instrumentation (including the devices and systems used to operate and automate industrial processes) present in the enterprise.

Smart industrial networking devices from IXON, Netbiter and Synology were found in the analyzed enterprise logs.

Security practices were found to be uneven in the depth of execution. There were four major classes of security issues they observed, specifically:

      1. Plain-text HTTP communication to a server for firmware or package updates

 

      2. Plain-text HTTP authentication

 

      3. Use of outdated libraries

 

    4. Weak default credentials

Additionally, they found that approximately 91.5% of transactions were occurring over a plain text channel whereas only 8.5% were using SSL.

But, 18% of the total devices used SSL exclusively to communicate. Forty-one percent of devices were using partial SSL ("partial" meaning that there was some communication over SSL and some is over non-SSL channels), while the same percentage (41%) of devices were found to be using no SSL at all for any of their communications. The report also saw that because default IoT device passwords tend to be unchanged following installation, brute-force attacks remained effective.

The top destinations that were connected to by the IoT malware families observed were the US (66%), Canada (12%), France (2.5%), Greece (2.2%) and Russia (2%).

Security concerns need to be addressed by the well-known methods, and the enterprise needs to gain visibility of the shadow IoT devices that are already sitting inside the network so they can address them.

— Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek.

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