July 7, 2017
IoT devices are increasingly becoming ubiquitous, raising the stakes of physical harm to humans if exploits make these connected devices go rogue. One of the first examples of such an IoT exploit that will do just that is slated to be presented by renowned researcher Billy Rios later this month at Black Hat USA in Las Vegas.
Rios, founder of WhiteScope, in his Black Hat talk When IoT Attacks: Understanding the Safety Risks Associated with Connected Devices will demontrate an exploit he wrote that prompts an IoT device to intentionally strike a person. "We are in the early stages of IoT, but in 15 years robotics will be in our homes and workplace and we want to show the road we are headed on," Rios says.
His exploit employs zero-day vulnerabilities that he discovered in an IoT device, the details of which Rios declined to divulge prior to his presentation. The vendor of the IoT product has not yet patched the flaws, which involve authentication bypass and the ability to disable or bypass safety mechanisms.
An IoT physical attack could involve a connected device that strikes an individual in a public place, for example, he says.
"A robotic arm in a factory can hit you, but people don't take that seriously because they think that they are only used in manufacturing," Rios explains. "The attacks I will be discussing are devices that are used in public places and can hit or strike you."
While the number of exploitable connected devices is high, the number of connected devices that can be exploited to physically injure someone is surprisingly small. "I think drones and self-driving cars fit into this category," Rios says.
In the future, however, he anticipates more IoT physical risks, especially as a result of the growth in robotics.
"We have already shown we can hurt people by accident with IoT," Rios says, pointing to recent accidents in self-driving cars.
Core IoT Problems
Although IoT devices have the potential to physically inflict harm on humans if they are exploited by nefarious actors, the industry is currently unregulated, compared to the transportation and healthcare industries, Rios says.
He added one of the goals of his presentation is to get people talking about a cybersecurity safety law and also the need to activate a scoring system for IoT safety risks, similar to that issued for security update patches.
"A vulnerability that compromises a TV and a vulnerability that compromises a car are currently scored the same way," Rios says. "But where this falls down is when you have a device that can actually hurt you. You want to differentiate between an issue that can physically hurt you and one that doesn't."
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