Vulnerability Trends

Why the explosion of Pandemic IoT could be opening up new vulnerabilities in your supply-chain

The technological landscape is ever changing. Global events like COVID-19 can rapidly change the way we interact with technology, creating new access points for attackers to access our networks and personal information. For instance, the expanding internet of things creates potential new weaknesses in supply chains. Without the right tools, it can feel like new vulnerabilities are constant and true security is unattainable. Luckily, Hadrian is ideally positioned to support customers. By being proactive in adapting to these changes, working hard to solve any challenges, and giving you insight into how the system works, Hadrian helps protect customers against new vulnerabilities.

Supply chain attacks, also called value-chain or third-party attacks, happen when an attacker uses an outside partner or provider to gain access to an enterprise system. A chain reaction triggered by one attack on a single supplier can compromise an entire network. In 2018, the personal information of thousands of customers using Ticketmaster UK was compromised due to an attack that targeted third party code. Ticketmaster was using a plugin from a third-party supplier on its payment pages. The plugin was infiltrated using malicious software resulting in customer information being compromised. With the expansion of IoT during the pandemic, new vulnerabilities in companies like Ticketmaster have been created, and supply chain attacks are more commonplace.

Hackers get into supply chains in a multitude of ways: injections of malware and ransomware, social engineering, where phishing scams manipulate individuals into giving information, or even by introducing counterfeit parts into hardware. A particular vulnerability is the growth of the Internet of Things: a system of connected computing devices which transfer data to each other over a network without requiring human interaction. Devices like smart refrigerators, or smart speakers are examples of IoT devices that the average consumer may have in their home. As more devices are connected to the network and more information is shared between devices, access points for hackers increase. Dependence on IoT opens up organisations to more third-party vulnerabilities, as one device being compromised can open up the entire network to attack.

IoT has a long history of being used in healthcare: devices help to deliver medication or diagnose patients, and wearable devices monitor vital signs and environment by tracking movement and activity. When COVID-19 came onto the scene in 2020, many experts turned to IoT for solutions. According to a Vodafone IoT Spotlight Report in 2020, 84% of businesses claimed IoT was essential for their survival during the pandemic. A DCMS study found that almost half of UK residents had purchased at least one smart device since the start of the outbreak.

Pandemic IoT devices have had huge benefits. For instance, touchless hand disinfection machines which dispense hand sanitiser are all around us. Touchless hand sanitiser stations in public facilities like hospitals record and upload data on use to track hygiene practices, while others use smart-control methods to limit sanitiser waste. As well, COVID tracking constitutes 14% of COVID-19 IoT projects - if you’ve interacted, or uploaded personal information to an app that traces patients, records statistics or maps outbreaks you’ve interacted with IoT. Despite the importance of pandemic IoT in everyday lives, the quick adoption by so many users has generated large numbers of vulnerabilities. The extent of these vulnerabilities has only recently begun to be measured.

Devices like coronavirus doorbells, which detect people with high fevers outside your home, have also come on the market, and with them a host of potential security breaches. Smart doorbells have a history of being compromised. In smart doorbells manufactured by Qihoo, covert DNS channels were used for malware delivery. Digital lock picking has also been used to access passwords on mobile applications used to control the digital doorbell devices. Although IoT devices can be extremely helpful it’s important for developers to be aware of these potential difficulties in order to prevent entire networks from being attacked through these new access points.

There are potential solutions which protect your organisation’s network from potential vulnerabilities while allowing you to benefit from IoT. For instance, it is important to make sure that networks IoT devices connect to are protected from infiltration.

When we think about the way IoT interacts with company networks it can be helpful to think of connecting networks in terms of layers. The first layer is your company’s network, this is connected to the cloud via a firewall. The firewall is a piece of software that monitors the traffic between the company network and the cloud and typically blocks incoming requests. Hadrian focuses on that layer. Its platform finds ‘holes’ in firewalls that may be allowing requests containing potential threats. For instance, applications with unauthorised access which also contain vulnerabilities. By scanning and identifying threats to the organisation's network, Hadrian helps to limit the ability of attackers to access any data stored on IoT through companies’ networks.

The second layer - the IoT - is behind this first layer. IoT devices tend to have their own operational technology networks that are separate from the company network. However, they can pass information on to the company network and it is this part of the system that Hadrian proactively protects. When Hadrian looks for holes in the first layer it also sees the layers behind it. Hadrian could identify if there’s a leak in one of the IoT devices contained in the second layer that has created an access point allowing connection to an enterprise’s network. If one of the IoT devices was able to pass along a piece of malware Hadrian could detect that too.

As supply chain attacks become more common it is important for organisations to pay attention to what is connecting to their network. The potential for IoT to increase supply chain vulnerability should not deter organisations from capitalising on the benefits of IoT both within and outside the context of the pandemic. Innovative solutions such as Hadrian’s autonomous event-based scanning technology offers organisations a way to protect their networks without shying away from the opportunities that IoT brings to the table.

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Written by: Team

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