IoT devices are pervasive in our daily lives, whether in our homes with connected automation systems or at the workplace with smart factories, healthcare facilities, and even automobiles. In fact, so intense is this wave that in 2020, over 20 billion IoT devices were running concurrently across the world, according to Gartner!
With the rapid global transformation of business processes over the past decade, IoT has become an easy target for cybercriminals. In 2020, IoT devices accounted for 32.72% of all mobile and Wi-Fi network infiltrations or infections, up from 16.17% in 2019. In the past year, DDoS attacks leveraging IoT devices have increased by a factor of five over the last year.
Organizations cannot take IoT security for granted and must take measures to stay ahead of both known and unknown threats. This includes IoT penetration testing as a central part of your IoT security strategy.
Unpacking the Meaning of IoT Penetration Testing
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a massive network of interconnected devices that send and receive data over public or private networks.
Even though 57% of IoT devices are vulnerable to medium- or high-severity attacks, the sheer number of IoT systems continues to soar. In metropolitan areas, businesses, and critical facilities like hospitals or power plants, there are numerous IoT devices in use.
To protect this vast array of devices, organizations must conduct IoT penetration testing.
Penetration testing (also known as pentesting) assesses the safety of an IT system or network by reenacting a malicious intrusion. The goal of penetration testing is to identify security flaws and defects that can be fixed or mitigated before their abuse by actual malicious actors.
Simply put, IoT penetration testing is the process of testing Internet of Things gadgets and networks for vulnerabilities. This relates to the integrity of the Internet of Things device and the data that it transmits and receives.
How Does IoT Penetration Testing Work?
Testing for vulnerabilities reveals hidden vulnerabilities in security by simulating aggressive cyberattacks. These specialists are commonly referred to as IoT pen-testers, who are essentially security testing experts. They examine hardware and firmware for safety risks and accessibility errors. This consists of:
- Examining network traffic
- Reverse engineering firmware of an electronic device
- Exploiting weaknesses in the Internet of Things web-based interfaces
- Invasion of IoT application code
Testers put themselves in the shoes of a hacker, attempting to infiltrate servers, discover the most valuable assets, and capture the most important data. Companies must conduct these tests, particularly with emerging technologies such as IoT, so that their somewhat “unsecured” reputation rapidly dissipates, and you can gain from its business benefits.
Large infrastructure companies and managed service providers are known to provide penetration testing services. For instance, IBM provides X-Force Red services in conjunction with the Watson Internet of Things (IoT) system. Alongside the configuration and administration of IoT environments, this offers another layer of safety and penetration testing.
To simulate real-world cyber attacks, IBM’s X-Force Red has created a password decoder known as “Cracken.” The insights gleaned from this penetration testing will assist customers in improving their password habits. That is precisely how IoT penetration testing works.
Why is IoT Pentesting Important?
IoT penetration testing is a vital component of a robust, all-encompassing IT security program for an organization’s networks and devices.
IoT penetration testing seeks to identify and remediate vulnerabilities in the company’s IoT security strategy that might allow attackers to pilfer confidential data or obtain unauthorized entry into a connected device or network. IoT pen testers enhance the defenses and stability of your systems by eliminating these vulnerabilities.
With IoT penetration testing, you can secure your connected enterprise against the following threats:
- Links to unprotected networks
- Passwords with weaknesses
- Poor data governance and safety
- Insufficient authentication notifications and alerts
- The absence of updates
- Irrelevant or unintelligible default settings
Unfortunately, such issues are all too prevalent in IoT implementations, as this is an emerging space without an established governance structure (such as ITIL for standard data systems). 58% of companies only evaluate IoT applications at the time of the development phase, exposing systems to potential vulnerabilities.
That is why IoT penetration testing is so necessary – to protect organizations from the threats surrounding a growing and evolving IoT environment.
How to Get Started with IoT Penetration Testing
To launch a pen-testing project for IoT, here are the steps to follow:
- IoT landscape assessment: First, penetration testers collect data regarding the target network or ecosystem. This could involve the total number and type of Internet of Things gadgets, the network’s design, and any safety controls in action.
- The use of vulnerability scanners and similar tools: Pen testers employ vulnerability detection tools to identify possible weaknesses in a connected device or network, like misconfigurations and access control concerns.
- Thinking like a threat: Known or commonly recognized flaws are easy to spot, but an exhaustive pen-testing process demands creative reasoning. Consider how your organization could set up defenses on top of existing barriers and how a hacker might circumvent them.
- The actual attack: When penetration testers discover security vulnerabilities, they look for ways to exploit them in as many ways as possible to obtain access to the network and launch an attack.
- Secondary exploit: After obtaining access through a specific security flaw, penetration testers attempt to widen their influence all over the network. They collect more data or seek to broaden their privileges. This may involve the insertion of malware or the exfiltration of confidential information.
- Reporting: After this investigation, IoT penetration testers create an account outlining the flaws they discovered, the scope of the attack, and suggestions for fixing or mitigating the issue at hand.
- Analysis: After a vulnerability test, security analysts must schedule a timeline to review the results of the investigation. The stage is stratified, and the test results must be retained in a secure location. It discloses confidential information about how hackers could exploit IoT equipment, which must be protected by stringent authentication protocols.
- Security reinforcements: Do we require additional encryption or permanent storage spaces? Is there currently an excess of authorized users? Is the IoT device incorrectly acquiring data, making it a more appealing target for hackers? These investigations will disclose — after penetration testing — what organizations must do to stop future attacks.
Benefits of IoT Pen Testing
Penetration testing offers several key benefits for companies adopting IoT:
- Smarter asset management: Pen-testing can help companies that have several IoT devices keep track of them and assess their performance. Devices with irreparable vulnerabilities, or where the cost of patching outweighs the device’s utility, can be retired.
- Intelligent performance management: Pen testing can provide insights into the efficacy of Internet of Things devices. It will guarantee that they are working correctly under the specified circumstances while providing the anticipated business value.
- Stronger risk management: IoT penetration testing may detect unprotected devices and analyze the probability of an IoT security breach. Organizations can score the risks and address them as per priority.
- Assured compliance: Companies may be required by regulations and laws like the GDPR of the European Union or HIPAA for healthcare organizations to keep IoT data protected and confidential. IoT penetration testing can save you from costly penalties and damage to the organization’s reputation.
- Increased IoT adoption: If your employees remain apprehensive about the safety of these devices, only a few will adopt them. The data they obtain to improve business processes will be insufficient and ineffective. Pen-testing alleviates user concerns and proves the merit of your IoT security measures.
In Conclusion: IoT Pen Testing Best Practices
Internet of Things devices may possess a variety of interfaces (web-based, object-based, etc.). Therefore, input validation, command injections, or code injections must be at the very forefront of IoT penetration testing.
In addition, it is essential to employ both automated and human penetration testing techniques. This will enable you to conduct exhaustive investigations on the network infrastructure, encryption methods, and comms protocols associated with it. And finally, pen testers must scan the proprietary applications that power the overall system design and framework.
A staggering 99% of security professionals struggle to secure their IoT and Industrial IoT (IIoT) devices. Penetration testing gives you just the external perspective you need to plug the remaining gaps and be confident about your IoT security posture.