Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Endpoint

10/16/2018
02:30 PM
Migo Kedem
Migo Kedem
Commentary
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
100%
0%

A Cybersecurity Weak Link: Linux and IoT

Linux powers many of the IoT devices on which we've come to rely -- something that enterprises must address.

When Linus Torvalds developed a free operating system back in 1991 in his spare time, nobody could have guessed where it would lead.

Linux is not only the backbone of the Internet and the Android operating system, it's also in domestic appliances, motor vehicles, and pretty much anything else that requires a minimal operating system to run dedicated software. The Internet of Things (IoT) is very much powered by Linux.

But when Chrysler announced a recall of 1.4 million vehicles back in 2015 after a pair of hackers demonstrated a remote hijack of a Jeep's digital systems, the risks involved with hacking IoT devices were dramatically illustrated. 

So, what does the rise of Linux and IoT mean for cybersecurity in the enterprise? Let's take a look.

Our Networks Have Changed
Today's defense solutions and products mostly address Windows-based attacks. It's the most prevalent operating system in the enterprise, and the majority of system administrators are tasked with solving the security problems it brings. 

Over time, however, the popularity of Windows in enterprise IT has weakened. A growing number of DevOps and advanced users are choosing Linux for their workstations. In parallel, the internal and external services a typical enterprise offering has moved away from Windows-based devices to Linux: Ubuntu, SUSE, and Red Hat. Linux containers have broad appeal for enterprises because they make it easier to ensure consistency across environments and multiple deployment targets such as physical servers, virtual machines, and private or public clouds. However, many Linux container deployments are focused on performance, which often comes at the expense of security.

Beyond that, every device used in the network is now connected to the same networks where all the most valuable assets reside. What used to be a simple fax machine has now become a server. Our switches and routers are moving into the backbone of our most secure networks, bringing along the potential for cyber breaches as they do so. 

Malware Authors' Heaven
Let's shift our attention from the defender to the attackers, whose strategy often is to use minimal effort for maximum impact. In many cases, keeping things simple proves to be enough. 

If you look at your network from the attacker's perspective, there are enough open doors to penetrate without the hassle of crossing the security mechanisms of the most common operating system. Of course, that doesn't mean you can relax the effort to secure your Windows devices; there are still some severe weaknesses (social engineering anyone?).

Here are a few notable breaches involving IoT or, by extension, Linux-controlled devices: 

1. Compromising a Network by Sending a Fax
Check Point researchers have revealed details of two critical remote code execution (RCE) vulnerabilities they discovered in the communication protocols used in tens of millions of fax machines globally. (A patch is available on HP's support page.)

2. The Mirai Botnet
In October 2016, the largest distributed denial-of-service attack ever was launched on service provider Dyn using an IoT botnet, which led to huge portions of the Internet going down. The Mirai botnet caused infected computers to continually search the Internet for vulnerable IoT devices such as digital cameras and DVRs, and then used known default usernames and passwords to log in and infect them with malware. 

3. 465,000 Abbott Pacemakers Vulnerable to Hacking
In the summer of 2016, the FDA and Homeland Security issued alerts about vulnerabilities in Abbott pacemakers that required a firmware update to close security holes. The unpatched firmware made it possible for an attacker to drain the pacemaker battery or exfiltrate user medical data. (The firmware was updated a year later.)

Regaining Control
As there are many different IoT devices and inherent vulnerabilities, patching can be overwhelming. That said, you can't protect what you can't see, so start with the basics: map out what you have and gain visibility into traffic, including the growing blind spot of encrypted traffic. This will allow you to introduce IoT security into your already existing security program. 

The next step is to ensure no default authentication is set for any of your devices and to start patching. Patching can't fix everything, but it can discourage any attackers probing your network. 

On the Linux side, there are enterprise-grade solutions available, some of which are more intrusive than others: they'll cover your assets at the cost of kernel intrusion. Other Linux-based solutions focus on visibility and monitoring "userland" behavior and processes. This allows you to keep more control, but also can result in easier bypasses for malware.

Conclusion
Although preparation is the key to addressing IoT and Linux cyberattacks, there is still much else that can be done. On the IoT side, device manufacturers need to develop a common set of security mechanisms and standards. Until that time, the best approach is to reduce the attack surface to a bare minimum: retire old devices, patch all devices that are a must, and use vendors that invest in security and enforce authentication wherever possible. On the Linux side, the situation is somewhat better, as software solutions and the main vendors continue to invest in securing the operating systems. However, there's no doubt that malware authors will persist in exploring and exploiting weaknesses in the OS and software whenever and wherever they find them.

While defenders need to seal every gap and plug every hole, an attacker just needs one way in. In some cases, that could come from your Linux and IoT. An IoT revolution is occurring, and the speed of change is bringing with it multiple security implications, some of which may be as yet unknown. The enterprise needs to be ready, and it needs to be vigilant.

Related Content:

 

Black Hat Europe returns to London Dec. 3-6, 2018, with hands-on technical Trainings, cutting-edge Briefings, Arsenal open-source tool demonstrations, top-tier security solutions, and service providers in the Business Hall. Click for information on the conference and to register.

Migo Kedem is the Senior Director of Products and Marketing at SentinelOne. Before joining SentinelOne, Mr. Kedem spent a decade in building cybersecurity products for Palo Alto Networks and Checkpoint. View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Mobile Banking Malware Up 50% in First Half of 2019
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/17/2020
Exploits Released for As-Yet Unpatched Critical Citrix Flaw
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  1/13/2020
Microsoft to Officially End Support for Windows 7, Server 2008
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/13/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Organizations have invested in a sweeping array of security technologies to address challenges associated with the growing number of cybersecurity attacks. However, the complexity involved in managing these technologies is emerging as a major problem. Read this report to find out what your peers biggest security challenges are and the technologies they are using to address them.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-7227
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
Westermo MRD-315 1.7.3 and 1.7.4 devices have an information disclosure vulnerability that allows an authenticated remote attacker to retrieve the source code of different functions of the web application via requests that lack certain mandatory parameters. This affects ifaces-diag.asp, system.asp, ...
CVE-2019-15625
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A memory usage vulnerability exists in Trend Micro Password Manager 3.8 that could allow an attacker with access and permissions to the victim's memory processes to extract sensitive information.
CVE-2019-19696
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A RootCA vulnerability found in Trend Micro Password Manager for Windows and macOS exists where the localhost.key of RootCA.crt might be improperly accessed by an unauthorized party and could be used to create malicious self-signed SSL certificates, allowing an attacker to misdirect a user to phishi...
CVE-2019-19697
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
An arbitrary code execution vulnerability exists in the Trend Micro Security 2019 (v15) consumer family of products which could allow an attacker to gain elevated privileges and tamper with protected services by disabling or otherwise preventing them to start. An attacker must already have administr...
CVE-2019-20357
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A Persistent Arbitrary Code Execution vulnerability exists in the Trend Micro Security 2020 (v160 and 2019 (v15) consumer familiy of products which could potentially allow an attacker the ability to create a malicious program to escalate privileges and attain persistence on a vulnerable system.