Hackers have compromised many types of internet-connected devices to gain access to business networks. This makes it important to review security risks in firmware, which is the class of software that gives the low-level control of the hardware of an IoT device. An unsecured IoT device is like an unlocked front door through which hackers can enter.
Hackers exploit weaknesses in IoT security as a jump-off point for all types of malicious behavior that could include distributed denial-of-service attacks, click fraud, malware distribution, and others. Thus, before a device breach results in revenue loss, reputation damage, or lawsuit, it is imperative to be aware of the most common firmware vulnerabilities to ensure your organization or network won’t be hacked:
The Firmware Has a Weak Authentication Mechanism
Threat actors can gain access to devices when the firmware has a weak authentication mechanism. Such mechanisms can range from single-factor and password-based authentication to systems based on weak cryptographic algorithms. These algorithms can be divided into with brute-force attacks.
There is Unauthenticated Access
This vulnerability lets threat actors gain access to an IoT device. It makes it easy to exploit the data within the devices and any controls given by it.
The Potential of Hidden Backdoors
In terms of firmware, hidden backdoors are a favorite hacker exploit. Backdoors are intentional vulnerabilities planted into an embedded device to offer remote access to anybody with the “secret” authentication information. While backdoors are possibly helpful for customer support, they can have serious consequences when discovered by malicious actors.
Presence of Buffer Overflows
Issues can arise when coding firmware if the programmer uses insecure string-handling functions that can result in buffer overflows. Malicious actors spend will look at the code within the software of the device, trying to determine how to cause erratic application behavior or crashes that can enable a security breach. With buffer overflows, hackers can remotely access devices that can be weaponized to make denial-of-service and code-injection attacks.
In the majority of devices, the firmware contains hard-coded passwords that users cannot change or default passwords users rarely change. These can lead to devices being easy to exploit.
The Use of Open-Source Components
Although open-source platforms and libraries have allowed the fast development of sophisticated IoT products, the firmware can be an unprotected attack surface that hackers will exploit. This is because IoT devices often use third-party, open-source components that usually have unknown or undocumented sources. Updating to the latest version of an open source-platform will address this issue.