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Feb 1, 2018

The Internet of Unsecured Things


Finding Security in the Smart Devices World

The internet of things (IoT) refers to the network of physical objects embedded with network connectivity.

This technology allows devices that were previously silent to communicate and share data. For instance, objects as complex as automobiles, public transportation and heart monitors can now share data with appliances like washing machines or refrigerators. The result is an explosion of both data creators and data collectors.

However, as the initial excitement and possibilities about IoT have subsided, it has created serious concerns about the functionality and security of connecting everyday devices. With experts forecasting that as many as 50 billion IoT devices could be connected by 2020, IT professionals are grappling with the problem of securing so many devices.

The Trouble Securing So Many Devices

One of the fundamental issues of IoT security is the sheer number of gadgets for which to account. Securing that many devices behind a single security firewall can be difficult. Just a few years ago we only had to worry about digitally securing our computers. Now we have to consider protecting our cell phones, wearable devices, home appliances and more.

Properly securing IoT could require an enormous investment of resources. Businesses already worry about the security of their networks being used through computers and smartphones, but as IoT grows, businesses may also have to secure ordinary objects, such as the motion detector that monitors how many people are in the conference room.

To make matters worse, HP has estimated that as many as 70 percent of IoT devices could be vulnerable to attack. With smart devices, such as watches, baby monitors and garage doors taking in thousands of data points daily, even small breaches could compromise millions.

Proactive Solutions for the Future

IoT brings a wealth of benefits and advantages to both businesses and consumers.

People who utilize smart devices can count on a treasure trove of relevant and targeted data. This can help companies manage everything from inventory tracking to remote workers. But managing our new smart gadget-driven world is not without potential pitfalls and security headaches.

Here are a few ways they can protect devices and networks from unwanted and malicious intrusions and keep consumers safe.

1. Patches

Developers need to ensure their devices are patchable, and then stay constant and current with available security updates. A problem still exists when patches are released, but users fail to take the necessary steps to update their devices – leaving hundreds of millions of unpatched and unsecured devices on the internet.

There is only so much that manufacturers and developers can do to remedy this problem, but two suggestions are to send alerts to users when a patch is available or allow users to opt in for automatic updates.

2. Consider Multiple OSes

Even when developers are proactive with patches, they need to understand these security updates will impact every user differently due to the variety of operating systems in use on individual devices. For instance, Apple, Samsung, Google and Microsoft all have their own IoT platforms, which don’t always communicate well with each other.

Developers need to consider a multi-layered security approach which will effectively function throughout the lifecycle of an IoT device, regardless of the operating system it’s running.

3. Password Requirements or Two-Step Verification

The next time you scan for nearby Bluetooth connections on your cell phone in a crowded place, you’ll probably see a few smart devices pop up.

Most devices already require passwords or two-step verification to connect, but developers should consider adding this security measure to all IoT products. Users will want their devices to automatically connect, but this should only be an option after security and authenticity are initially verified.

The simple fact is that most people who use IoT devices do not understand how they work and may wrongly assume that their devices are secure, which may not be the case if the product is discoverable by default.

Living in an Internet of Secured Things

Unfortunately, until there is a massive IoT security breach (and it’s likely not a matter of if, but when), we really won’t understand the risks associated with all of our interconnected devices. This is not to say we should abandon an IoT world because the security threat level is too great; the benefits far outweigh the risks.

While developers and manufacturers do hold some of the responsibility of mitigating these risks, the onus is also on users to understanding how devices will share their data and taking proactive steps – like downloading those security patches and frequently updating passwords – to protect their personal information.

Does your business have network security or IT infrastructure needs? Contact us today to learn more about INAP’s high-performance network services that will keep your applications running as fast as your business.

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Nov 20, 2012

Global Trends of Cyber Security


cyber security To discuss the global trends of cyber security, we must first discuss the motivation behind the actors who are delivering malware into environments, running distributed denial of services attacks and causing breaches across the industry. There are three main reasons for performing malicious attacks on a corporate environment: for profit, espionage and hacktivism.

For Profit, we see a lot of trends coming from Eastern Europe in which simple tools are used to steal personal identifiable information (PII) that can be used by the malicious actors or sold to anyone willing to purchase the data from the underground marketplace. These attacks are generally website compromises that lead to databases containing encrypted PII. The style of the attack is more of a smash and grab. This was recently seen with the breach at the Revenue department of the State of South Carolina where over 387,000 credit and debit cards were taken. Of the 387,000 records, only 16,000 were unencrypted and revealed in plain text.

There was a time when these types of illegal transactions took place in dark places and were unknown to the general public, but that’s no longer the case. The malicious actors now even offer free samples, verification services and replacement packages if cards are no longer valid. The size of the economy is largely unknown, but there was a researcher at McAfee that estimated the size to be in excess of $750 billion in 2011.

cyber security

For Espionage, there is a completely different set of tools and goals. You are finding more long-term attacks. Spear phishing is used more prevalently in an attempt to deliver malware into an environment. We find that the attacks are primarily coming from Asia, and the intent is to escalate privileges until a level is reached in which data can be transferred quietly and efficiently out of an environment through a compromised third-party server. Attack experts believe that the malware’s first phase is to collect sensible information on the target networks and in a second phase, to erase tracks of its operation. It then destroys the infected machines making the subsequent forensic analysis by computer experts difficult. For example, there is an ecommerce site that has purchased a /32 bit subnet allowing them six hosts per segment, and the owner is only using one for his web server and another for a database server. The host web server is compromised with a recent zero-day exploit. The malicious actor would compromise the site, unknowingly to the ecommerce operator, and set up a communication tunnel from which they would transfer stolen data. The data will then be transferred to a collection server and then retrieved by actors located at the true origin of the attack. Before completing their mission, they would whip out the communication path so that there is not trace that they ever were there, making forensics impossible. This is a common technique used to transfer data without the true source being revealed.

cyber security

For Hacktivism, this is a cause of social protest or to promote political ideology. Hacktivists employ operations such as denial of service(s), information theft, data breach(es), and website defacement(s). These are certainly not new tactics and were used back in the mid-90s by groups such as the Cult of the Dead Cow. We have seen groups stand up and act as both Robin Hood and Prince John in one. Robin Hood, in which they stand for righting the wrongs that has been committed on the Internet. For example, a group identifying a person who wrongfully committed Internet crimes against a minor that drove that person to take their own life. This person who committed the crime would have their lives published on the Internet for all to see and for law enforcement to track. The Prince Johns are those of the group who do not see the truth in what the other are attempting to do. They use the tools and access to use on low security financial institutions and targets of a convenient and easy nature to compromise. According to the study “Data Breach Investigations Report,” published by Verizon, hacktivists stole almost twice as many records of ordinary cyber crime from organizations and government agencies. Hacktivists are showing incredible skills and we expect the attacks to increase in numbers as well as impact. They were the representation of their generation and performed their operations of denial of services, information theft, data breach and website defacement.

To learn more about cyber crime, join Internap and Alert Logic for a Cyber Crime Evening Reception on December 5th. Click here to register.


Guest Contributor Stephen Coty is a member of the Alert Logic Security Research Team

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