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.

IoT/Embedded Security

2/27/2019
11:45 AM
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%

Digital Transformation With IoT: Assessing Risk Through Standards & Visibility

IoT transformation is a gift and a curse that carries both business agility and business risk. As the world digitally transforms into something "smarter" than itself, IoT devices proliferate, demanding a lot of resources to keep up with them all – and, by extension, secure them all.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been a driving force of digital transformation; as such, IoT devices' notorious lack of proper security is stunting both IT security and IT growth. In the first segment of this series, we began to explore the difficulties that IT departments face in digital-transformation initiatives where cloud migrations are concerned. One of the reasons cloud is vital to digital transformation is the enablement of IoT, bearing the load of exploding numbers of new devices of all kinds on the network. (See Digital Transformation With Cloud: Answering Risks With Algorithms.)

Moreover, by their very nature, many IoT devices when first conceived were typically never intended to offer connectivity or contend with cybersecurity issues -- and IoT manufacturers haven't exactly done much to enhance device security at nearly the same rate as they have connectivity.

Rules and standards
"The gotcha with any IoT deployment is how those devices are kept secure over time," Chris Smith, head of global security services at CenturyLink, told Security Now. "We still see a general lack of accountability with manufacturers when it comes to patching and firmware."

A legally mandated floor -- albeit a very low and somewhat amorphous one -- will be coming to the US in 2020, when a California law impacting all devices with connectivity will come into effect. The law will require device-makers to equip devices sold in California with "reasonable" and "appropriate" security features -- such as unique default passwords, or compulsory user-generated authentication on first use. (See California Looks to Pass Rudimentary IoT Security Legislation.)

There are still yet bigger problems to address in the connected-device industry, like that of customized protocols in lieu of standardization -- which, by their one-off and usually proprietary nature, do not lend themselves well to security research.

"One of the hard things with IoT security is that the full architecture is not yet standardized," Ben Stori, a consultant at Solution Design Group, told Security Now. "Every vendor has their own architecture to run their devices on."

Last week, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) Technical Committee on Cybersecurity (TC CYBER) announced its release of TS 103 645 -- which purports to be the "first globally applicable standard for consumer IoT security ... provid[ing] a basis for future IoT certification schemes." According to ETSI, compliance with TS 103 645 would prevent many headline-grabbing IoT exploits -- such as those used to spy on the users -- from being as successful in the future.

"The tools to tighten [IoT] up have to be applied in the original design; this is the whole ethos of 'secure by default'," Scott Cadzow, a security expert from TC CYBER, told Security Now. "[The] key to 'secure by default' is understanding and working out where an adversary will try and subvert the system."

Securing endpoints inside instead of outside
Perimeter defense, for instance, has become so porous as to make perimeters almost not worth defending (almost; see below) -- digital transformation or no. For this reason, SAP global CSO Justin Somaini proposes instead making application security the first line of defense -- to the point of developing "self-defending apps" with the ability to regulate and restrict access and modification on their own in real time.

Meanwhile, recent studies and reports have shown that even though endpoint attacks are on the rise, actual physical compromises of endpoints remain a rarity. More to the digitally transformative point, the complexities and obstacles to securing certain IoT endpoints can be plenty alleviated with strong application security -- especially when buttressed by solid perimeter defenses. (See Data Breach Increase Shows Endpoints Are Under Attack and Should All IAM Be CIAM?)

Seeing is securing
This is not to suggest ignoring the physical security of IoT devices, for they can be compromised via physical access in a number of ways. Network visibility thereby becomes all the more important -- though it is difficult to track IoT devices and assess their respective threats and vulnerabilities as they exponentially widen the attack surface.

"Log monitoring can help, but it must be able to accommodate all the sources the business has," said Smith. "And it needs to support not just threat detection but [also] the appropriate level of analysis to avoid putting out a flood of false positives."

High false-positive rates represent an inherent weakness of standard threat-intelligence tools; they lead to security-alert fatigue and IT-operations slowdowns -- defeating the whole point of digital transformation's agility goals in the first place. Cybersecurity-startup advisor Chris Richter told Security Now that many security frameworks even just a couple of years old already need to be revisited and updated to better pinpoint modern IoT-security threats -- recommending the NIST Cybersecurity Framework as a starting point in the absence of something better. (See Endpoint Security: 3 Big Obstacles to Overcome.)

"[Enterprises] are embracing IoT at an alarming rate," said Richter. "Any digital-transformation initaitve must include a cybersecurity-transformation element as part of the plan to begin with. Otherwise, it's very difficult for cybersecurity leaders and CISOs to stay current."

'There are lots of simple mitigations," adds Cadzow. "[But] there is no such thing as a benign device attached to the Internet."

Related posts:

—Joe Stanganelli is managing director at research and consulting firm Blackwood King LC. In addition to being an attorney and consultant, he has spent several years analyzing and writing about business and technology trends. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeStanganelli.

 

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 7/9/2020
Omdia Research Launches Page on Dark Reading
Tim Wilson, Editor in Chief, Dark Reading 7/9/2020
Mobile App Fraud Jumped in Q1 as Attackers Pivot from Browsers
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  7/10/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
This report describes some of the latest attacks and threats emanating from the Internet, as well as advice and tips on how your organization can mitigate those threats before they affect your business. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-15105
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
Django Two-Factor Authentication before 1.12, stores the user's password in clear text in the user session (base64-encoded). The password is stored in the session when the user submits their username and password, and is removed once they complete authentication by entering a two-factor authenticati...
CVE-2020-11061
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
In Bareos Director less than or equal to 16.2.10, 17.2.9, 18.2.8, and 19.2.7, a heap overflow allows a malicious client to corrupt the director's memory via oversized digest strings sent during initialization of a verify job. Disabling verify jobs mitigates the problem. This issue is also patched in...
CVE-2020-4042
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
Bareos before version 19.2.8 and earlier allows a malicious client to communicate with the director without knowledge of the shared secret if the director allows client initiated connection and connects to the client itself. The malicious client can replay the Bareos director's cram-md5 challenge to...
CVE-2020-11081
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
osquery before version 4.4.0 enables a priviledge escalation vulnerability. If a Window system is configured with a PATH that contains a user-writable directory then a local user may write a zlib1.dll DLL, which osquery will attempt to load. Since osquery runs with elevated privileges this enables l...
CVE-2020-6114
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
An exploitable SQL injection vulnerability exists in the Admin Reports functionality of Glacies IceHRM v26.6.0.OS (Commit bb274de1751ffb9d09482fd2538f9950a94c510a) . A specially crafted HTTP request can cause SQL injection. An attacker can make an authenticated HTTP request to trigger this vulnerabi...