Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Endpoint

10/16/2018
02:30 PM
Migo Kedem
Migo Kedem
Commentary
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
100%
0%

A Cybersecurity Weak Link: Linux and IoT

Linux powers many of the IoT devices on which we've come to rely -- something that enterprises must address.

When Linus Torvalds developed a free operating system back in 1991 in his spare time, nobody could have guessed where it would lead.

Linux is not only the backbone of the Internet and the Android operating system, it's also in domestic appliances, motor vehicles, and pretty much anything else that requires a minimal operating system to run dedicated software. The Internet of Things (IoT) is very much powered by Linux.

But when Chrysler announced a recall of 1.4 million vehicles back in 2015 after a pair of hackers demonstrated a remote hijack of a Jeep's digital systems, the risks involved with hacking IoT devices were dramatically illustrated. 

So, what does the rise of Linux and IoT mean for cybersecurity in the enterprise? Let's take a look.

Our Networks Have Changed
Today's defense solutions and products mostly address Windows-based attacks. It's the most prevalent operating system in the enterprise, and the majority of system administrators are tasked with solving the security problems it brings. 

Over time, however, the popularity of Windows in enterprise IT has weakened. A growing number of DevOps and advanced users are choosing Linux for their workstations. In parallel, the internal and external services a typical enterprise offering has moved away from Windows-based devices to Linux: Ubuntu, SUSE, and Red Hat. Linux containers have broad appeal for enterprises because they make it easier to ensure consistency across environments and multiple deployment targets such as physical servers, virtual machines, and private or public clouds. However, many Linux container deployments are focused on performance, which often comes at the expense of security.

Beyond that, every device used in the network is now connected to the same networks where all the most valuable assets reside. What used to be a simple fax machine has now become a server. Our switches and routers are moving into the backbone of our most secure networks, bringing along the potential for cyber breaches as they do so. 

Malware Authors' Heaven
Let's shift our attention from the defender to the attackers, whose strategy often is to use minimal effort for maximum impact. In many cases, keeping things simple proves to be enough. 

If you look at your network from the attacker's perspective, there are enough open doors to penetrate without the hassle of crossing the security mechanisms of the most common operating system. Of course, that doesn't mean you can relax the effort to secure your Windows devices; there are still some severe weaknesses (social engineering anyone?).

Here are a few notable breaches involving IoT or, by extension, Linux-controlled devices: 

1. Compromising a Network by Sending a Fax
Check Point researchers have revealed details of two critical remote code execution (RCE) vulnerabilities they discovered in the communication protocols used in tens of millions of fax machines globally. (A patch is available on HP's support page.)

2. The Mirai Botnet
In October 2016, the largest distributed denial-of-service attack ever was launched on service provider Dyn using an IoT botnet, which led to huge portions of the Internet going down. The Mirai botnet caused infected computers to continually search the Internet for vulnerable IoT devices such as digital cameras and DVRs, and then used known default usernames and passwords to log in and infect them with malware. 

3. 465,000 Abbott Pacemakers Vulnerable to Hacking
In the summer of 2016, the FDA and Homeland Security issued alerts about vulnerabilities in Abbott pacemakers that required a firmware update to close security holes. The unpatched firmware made it possible for an attacker to drain the pacemaker battery or exfiltrate user medical data. (The firmware was updated a year later.)

Regaining Control
As there are many different IoT devices and inherent vulnerabilities, patching can be overwhelming. That said, you can't protect what you can't see, so start with the basics: map out what you have and gain visibility into traffic, including the growing blind spot of encrypted traffic. This will allow you to introduce IoT security into your already existing security program. 

The next step is to ensure no default authentication is set for any of your devices and to start patching. Patching can't fix everything, but it can discourage any attackers probing your network. 

On the Linux side, there are enterprise-grade solutions available, some of which are more intrusive than others: they'll cover your assets at the cost of kernel intrusion. Other Linux-based solutions focus on visibility and monitoring "userland" behavior and processes. This allows you to keep more control, but also can result in easier bypasses for malware.

Conclusion
Although preparation is the key to addressing IoT and Linux cyberattacks, there is still much else that can be done. On the IoT side, device manufacturers need to develop a common set of security mechanisms and standards. Until that time, the best approach is to reduce the attack surface to a bare minimum: retire old devices, patch all devices that are a must, and use vendors that invest in security and enforce authentication wherever possible. On the Linux side, the situation is somewhat better, as software solutions and the main vendors continue to invest in securing the operating systems. However, there's no doubt that malware authors will persist in exploring and exploiting weaknesses in the OS and software whenever and wherever they find them.

While defenders need to seal every gap and plug every hole, an attacker just needs one way in. In some cases, that could come from your Linux and IoT. An IoT revolution is occurring, and the speed of change is bringing with it multiple security implications, some of which may be as yet unknown. The enterprise needs to be ready, and it needs to be vigilant.

Related Content:

 

Black Hat Europe returns to London Dec. 3-6, 2018, with hands-on technical Trainings, cutting-edge Briefings, Arsenal open-source tool demonstrations, top-tier security solutions, and service providers in the Business Hall. Click for information on the conference and to register.

Migo Kedem is the Senior Director of Products and Marketing at SentinelOne. Before joining SentinelOne, Mr. Kedem spent a decade in building cybersecurity products for Palo Alto Networks and Checkpoint. View Full Bio
 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 7/9/2020
Russian Cyber Gang 'Cosmic Lynx' Focuses on Email Fraud
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  7/7/2020
Why Cybersecurity's Silence Matters to Black Lives
Tiffany Ricks, CEO, HacWare,  7/8/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
This report describes some of the latest attacks and threats emanating from the Internet, as well as advice and tips on how your organization can mitigate those threats before they affect your business. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-15105
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
Django Two-Factor Authentication before 1.12, stores the user's password in clear text in the user session (base64-encoded). The password is stored in the session when the user submits their username and password, and is removed once they complete authentication by entering a two-factor authenticati...
CVE-2020-11061
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
In Bareos Director less than or equal to 16.2.10, 17.2.9, 18.2.8, and 19.2.7, a heap overflow allows a malicious client to corrupt the director's memory via oversized digest strings sent during initialization of a verify job. Disabling verify jobs mitigates the problem. This issue is also patched in...
CVE-2020-4042
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
Bareos before version 19.2.8 and earlier allows a malicious client to communicate with the director without knowledge of the shared secret if the director allows client initiated connection and connects to the client itself. The malicious client can replay the Bareos director's cram-md5 challenge to...
CVE-2020-11081
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
osquery before version 4.4.0 enables a priviledge escalation vulnerability. If a Window system is configured with a PATH that contains a user-writable directory then a local user may write a zlib1.dll DLL, which osquery will attempt to load. Since osquery runs with elevated privileges this enables l...
CVE-2020-6114
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-10
An exploitable SQL injection vulnerability exists in the Admin Reports functionality of Glacies IceHRM v26.6.0.OS (Commit bb274de1751ffb9d09482fd2538f9950a94c510a) . A specially crafted HTTP request can cause SQL injection. An attacker can make an authenticated HTTP request to trigger this vulnerabi...