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

// // //
08:05 AM
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb

IoT Security Needs Creative Solutions

Not every security solution has a place in the IoT. Professionals must look in new directions to keep the Internet of Things secure.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of those evolving security areas that presents, as most things do, both opportunity and risk. Security professionals will tend to view the threats that it presents through their previous experiences, even though the threat models may be different.

Solutions that have worked in the past are usually the first ones used to deal with current problems. Such solutions, though, may be the wrong answer to a problem; even though they can be a generally good and valid solution.

Take encryption, for example. If you are dealing with an IoT device, you may insist upon the messages that it sends and receives be encrypted in some manner. The encryption is assumed by most to guarantee security.

But, what if there was a way around the encryption itself? Some researchers at Princeton came up with a paper entitled "Privacy Attacks and Defenses on Encrypted IoT Traffic" that assumed the case of traffic made up of encrypted messages and still showed how such traffic could still give up important data.

They looked at a "smart home" full of IoT devices. Basically, they realized that the metadata of the traffic would allow a passive network adversary to infer private in-home user activities using just the streamed traffic rates and packet headers.

The IoT things will talk to their various servers. A DNS request is one example of this. Traffic rates (which are patterns of repetitive queries to the device's remote management servers) along with the first six digits of MAC addresses generated may also provide much information. Since the MAC addresses won't be visible on ISP-level traffic, a LAN tap will come in handy in order to grab them.

Spikes in traffic can also infer when IoT devices are active. Such spikes will have nothing to do with the actual encrypted content issued by the device, but correlate to how it is being used.

You're invited to attend Light Reading's 11th annual Future of Cable Business Services event. Join us in New York on November 30 for the premier independent conference focusing on the cable industry's continuing efforts in the commercial services market – all cable operators and other communications service providers get in free.

There is a footprint that will be left by IoT devices whenever they are connected, and this aspect must be considered by the security team. Though the paper uses the example of a smart home, an organization will leave the same kinds of correlatable operational traces by the use of its own IoT devices.

This is the kind of threat avenue that a simple threat model may never consider. Yet, because of its passive nature and its simplicity it may prove to be rather effective.

The researchers have an idea what to do here. They basically want to upset the correlations that could be otherwise derived by inserting dummy network requests at random intervals. Called "traffic shaping," achieving it is not usually a drain on bandwidth as might be feared. For instance, using it on combined audio and video streaming only adds 40KB/s to the overall bandwidth requirements.

This traffic shaping idea may not be the total answer to IoT privacy by any means. But it is a step in the right direction, and shows the kind of innovative and wide-ranging approaches that need to be taken to the IoT for both security and remediation.

Related posts:

— 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.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
I Smell a RAT! New Cybersecurity Threats for the Crypto Industry
David Trepp, Partner, IT Assurance with accounting and advisory firm BPM LLP,  7/9/2021
Attacks on Kaseya Servers Led to Ransomware in Less Than 2 Hours
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  7/7/2021
It's in the Game (but It Shouldn't Be)
Tal Memran, Cybersecurity Expert, CYE,  7/9/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Improving Enterprise Cybersecurity With XDR
Enterprises are looking at eXtended Detection and Response technologies to improve their abilities to detect, and respond to, threats. While endpoint detection and response is not new to enterprise security, organizations have to improve network visibility, expand data collection and expand threat hunting capabilites if they want their XDR deployments to succeed. This issue of Tech Insights also includes: a market overview for XDR from Omdia, questions to ask before deploying XDR, and an XDR primer.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2022-06-26
Out-of-bounds Read in GitHub repository vim/vim prior to 8.2.
PUBLISHED: 2022-06-26
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: none. Reason: This candidate was withdrawn by its CNA. Further investigation showed that it was not a security issue. Notes: none.
PUBLISHED: 2022-06-26
rpmsg_virtio_add_ctrl_dev in drivers/rpmsg/virtio_rpmsg_bus.c in the Linux kernel before 5.18.4 has a double free.
PUBLISHED: 2022-06-26
rpmsg_probe in drivers/rpmsg/virtio_rpmsg_bus.c in the Linux kernel before 5.18.4 has a double free.
PUBLISHED: 2022-06-26
Persistent XSS in Galaxkey Secure Mail Client in Galaxkey up to allows an attacker to perform an account takeover by intercepting the HTTP Post request when sending an email and injecting a specially crafted XSS payload in the 'subject' field. The payload executes when the recipient logs in...