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IoT Insecurity: 6 Common Attacks and How to Protect Customers

IoT Security
ShieldX Networks' Manuel Nedbal

Manuel Nedbal

By Manuel Nedbal, Founder & CTO, ShieldX Networks

You’ve seen the explosion in connected devices and IoT technologies ranging from smart homes to drones and even autonomous bots. Gartner says there will be more than 20 billion IoT devices in the wild by 2020, as enterprises rapidly adopt connected devices for better process control and to improve their bottom and topline growth. Billions of connected devices will revolutionize how data is processed and consumed, but don’t underestimate the associated security risks for your customers.

Imagine a SMART bulb or HVAC unit in a secure network operation center beaconing its own radio protocol. Connected devices like these provide back doors for an attacker who might be sitting in the parking lot or building, one that might allow access to an otherwise secure environment. Because traditional security controls and network-security devices are not designed to detect and mitigate these types of threats, IoT devices pose a serious risk to enterprise infrastructure if they aren’t properly managed. Partners need to figure out how to help.

Common IoT Attacks

Our ShieldX Labs team has performed detailed analysis of IoT device threats and vulnerabilities. The following list outlines the most common attacks we’ve seen on IoT devices.

  • Privilege escalation: Attackers are exploiting IoT device bugs, design flaws and operating-system or software-application-configuration oversights to gain elevated access to resources that are normally protected from an application or user.
  • Eavesdropping: If a weakened connection between an IoT device and server is found, an attacker might be able to intercept network traffic and steal the possibly sensitive information that IoT devices transmit over enterprise networks.
  • Brute-force password attacks: Due to the weakness of most IoT device passwords, brute-force attacks can be effectively used to gain access to the device.
  • Malicious node injection: Using this method, attackers physically deploy malicious nodes in between legitimate nodes in an IoT network. The malicious nodes can then be used to control operations and snoop on the data flowing between linked nodes.
  • Firmware hijacking: If firmware updates downloaded by an IoT device are not checked to make sure they originate from a legitimate source, it’s possible for an attacker to hijack the device and download malicious software.
  • DoS: Hackers are increasingly turning to denial-of-service (DoS) attacks to take companies offline or steal their sensitive data. It has been reported that DDoS attacks increased 91 percent in 2017 thanks to IoT.
  • Physical tampering: Physical threats exist if devices are deployed in environments where it is difficult for the enterprise to control the device and the people who can access it. As the explosive expansion of IoT continues, I expect to see even more sophisticated attacks emerge. I expect that attackers will begin to use compromised IoT devices to move laterally inside a network and bypass a variety of security controls, then pivot to move deeper inside the network. Additionally, IoT devices will be used as an exfiltration route that will allow attackers to send sensitive information to themselves.
The Challenge of IoT Threat Mitigation

All of the IoT attacks listed in the section above are difficult to detect because …

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