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Threat Intelligence

12/24/2019
09:00 AM
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IoT Security: How Far We've Come, How Far We Have to Go

As organizations fear the proliferations of connected devices on enterprise networks, the private and public sector come together to address IoT vulnerabilities.

The Internet of Things is bringing every aspect of our lives online. Phones, watches, printers, thermostats, lightbulbs, cameras, and refrigerators are only a handful of devices connecting to home and enterprise networks. This web of products is seemingly intended to make everyday tasks more convenient; unfortunately, their weak security gives attackers an easy route in.

"[The IoT] is still a computer on a network, but it's different," says Joseph Carson, chief security scientist with Thycotic. Unlike traditional PCs, the functionality for IoT devices is very specific; further, they're designed to be inexpensive and simple to deploy. As more employees bring devices into the workplace and connect them to Wi-Fi, the challenge to protect them escalates.

Enterprise devices not historically connected to the Internet are now part of the IoT, complicating the issue, adds Deral Heiland, IoT research lead at Rapid7. He points to multi-functional printers, which he says have long been a corporate security risk. Modern printers can control myriad functions, send data over the Internet, or print remotely via the cloud.

"One of the big things I run into at a lot of organizations is, 'What really is the IoT?'" he says. "Things that weren't on the IoT a decade ago, which have always been in the environment, have morphed into IoT technology." As a result, many businesses don't understand the full breadth of devices putting them at risk.

Routers, printers, and IP cameras are among the most prominently discussed devices in corporate IoT security. Cybercriminals are studying the IoT attack surface, figuring out what works and doesn't work, and how they can profit from vulnerabilities in connected devices. A recent Trend Micro report sheds light on how attackers profit from the IoT: many sell access to hacked IoT devices built into botnets; others extort owners of connected industrial equipment.

In particular, security experts point to the Mirai botnet as a turning point for connected device security. Mirai and its variants "seem to be the big one these days," says Jon Clay, Trend Micro's director of global threat communications. The botnet has "stifled creativity" in the underground for this type of malware: it's open-source and free, so attackers don't have to work very hard.

"The attack surface is growing incrementally," he says. "There are so many new devices coming online." Criminals are narrowing their focus on IoT, evolving from ransomware or point-of-sale malware to specifically targeting connected devices.

Compounding the danger of IoT threats is the rise of nation-state attackers, who are targeting firmware at scale or leveraging connected devices in DDoS attacks. They don't have to attack a major entity in order to have far-reaching effects, either: as NotPetya demonstrated, a nation-state actor could target one single component supplier to have devastating consequences.

Organizations' attitude toward IoT security is similar to their approach to smartphones several years back, Heiland says. Now, they're in the early stages of how they'll improve their business model and put together processes to stay secure. At the same time, standards and regulations are emerging to inform manufacturers how to build security into these devices from the start.

Where Businesses and Manufacturers Fall Short

A combination of poor device security and higher interest among attackers is driving businesses to pay more attention to the IoT. "The attack surface they're responsible for has grown so immensely," says Mike Janke, CEO of DataTribe, where a group of advisory CISOs uses the term "shadow IoT" to refer to the smartwatches, headphones, and tablets appearing on networks.

"That's a big pain because [the CISOs] are ultimately responsible," he continues, noting most don't have the budget, people, or resources to combat the problem. "It's very frustrating."

Many companies continue to struggle with patch management efforts, adds Clay, which adds to the challenge as IoT device manufacturers typically require users to apply updates. "A lot of these devices aren't traditional PCs," he explains. "Even though they have operating systems and applications inside, they aren't treated like a server or a PC is in an organization."

Carson advises organizations to consider the function of IoT devices before permitting them on a corporate network. Is it a data collector or aggregator? Can the rest of the network be accessed through the device? Does it introduce new threats? Who owns the device; can they view or download data? He suggests personal devices be required to access a guest network.

                                                                      (Continued on Next Page)

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio
 

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Dr.T
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Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2019 | 2:17:09 PM
Printers
Routers, printers, and IP cameras are among the most prominently discussed devices in corporate IoT security. We tend to forget printers and cameras in this picture quite often. They need to be secured too.
RyanSepe
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RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2019 | 1:08:01 AM
Re: Printers
Any IoT device needs to be secured and patched but you're right, these things way to often take a backseat to more conventional infrastructure.
Dr.T
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Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2019 | 2:18:47 PM
Open-source
it's open-source and free, so attackers don't have to work very hard. This is one of the problem with open-source, we know what is happening in the code so easier to hack.
RyanSepe
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RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2019 | 1:06:59 AM
Re: Open-source
True, unfortunately the flipped side to that easier to attack coin is that it makes it easier for individuals with more altruistic intent to make a product better than its original form because they have access to the source code.

The dichotemy of the human element is truly astounding to behold.
Dr.T
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Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2019 | 2:24:55 PM
DDoS
who are targeting firmware at scale or leveraging connected devices in DDoS attacks. DDoS is one of the primary problems in IoT world, easy to execute and maximum damage.
RyanSepe
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RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2019 | 1:04:33 AM
Re: DDoS
It's funny you should mention this because I brought this up in a response to one of your other posts. I don't think people outside of the security realm fully comprehend how easy it is to launch a DDoS attack. Very little effort or technical inclination is required and even without those two items you could sub it out using a Remote Access Tool for hire.
Dr.T
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Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2019 | 2:30:44 PM
POS
Criminals are narrowing their focus on IoT, evolving from ransomware or point-of-sale malware to specifically targeting connected devices. POS devices are target for both DDoS and ransomware, their firmware needs to be up to date.
RyanSepe
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RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2019 | 1:02:25 AM
Re: POS
Couldn't agree more. Unfortunately with POS being targets of DDoS and Ransomware, two very simplistic attack methods, they are subject to be targeted by any script kiddy looking for a thrill, all the way up to attackers with more nefarious intentions.
Dr.T
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Dr.T,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2019 | 2:32:43 PM
Patch management
Many companies continue to struggle with patch management efforts, And greatly fail. Most of us not up to date in a timely manner, and that is one of the main reasons we have the problems today.
RyanSepe
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RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2019 | 1:00:46 AM
Re: Patch management
To add to this I think most corporations are not certain where to start. I gave a speech this summer at a security conference that touched on Vulnerability and Patch Management and many were unsure before the topic on how the two were different.

Vulnerability Management highlights the exposures and provides the method for which to remediate them. This is to be performed by the Security Practioner.

Patch Management is to be performed by someone in SysOps or SysEng and NOT to be performed by the security team. 

Providing this data at a high level because I could go on at length about how pivotal it is to optimize these two programs within corporations to stay ahead of the curve.
tlanowitz
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tlanowitz,
User Rank: Author
1/24/2020 | 11:58:04 AM
Need for a Shared Security Model
This insightful article exemplifies the need for a shared security model. In a shared security model, the enterprise assumes responsibility for devices (IoT in this example) on the network. And, with a 5G network, which will allow IoT initiatives to gain momentum in the market, the network operator is responsible for the elements of security listed out in 3GPP frameworks and standards (i.e. data encryption and radio access network) as well as the handling the security of the network infrastructure.
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