Microsoft finds security vulnerabilities in IoT, OT devices

April 30, 2021 // By Rich Pell
Microsoft finds security vulnerabilities in IoT, OT devices
Microsoft says it has recently uncovered a series of critical memory allocation vulnerabilities in Internet of Things (IoT) and operational technology (OT) devices that adversaries could exploit to bypass security controls in order to execute malicious code or cause a system crash.

Discovered by the company's security research group for Azure Defender for IoT (known as "Section 52"), the remote code execution (RCE) vulnerabilities cover more than 25 Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) and potentially affect a wide range of domains, from consumer and medical IoT to Industrial IoT, Operational Technology, and industrial control systems. The vulnerabilities exist in standard memory allocation functions spanning widely used real-time operating systems (RTOSs), embedded software development kits (SDKs), and C standard library (libc) implementations.

The findings, says the company, have been shared with vendors through responsible disclosure led by the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), enabling these vendors to investigate and patch the vulnerabilities.

"Given the pervasiveness of IoT and OT devices, these vulnerabilities, if successfully exploited, represent a significant potential risk for organizations of all kinds," says the company. "To date, Microsoft has not seen any indications of these vulnerabilities being exploited. However, we strongly encourage organizations to patch their systems as soon as possible."

"BadAlloc" is the name assigned by the company's Section 52 to the family of vulnerabilities discovered in embedded IoT and OT operating systems and software to describe this class of memory overflow vulnerabilities. All of these vulnerabilities stem from the usage of vulnerable memory functions such as malloc, calloc, realloc, memalign, valloc, pvalloc, and more.

The company says its research shows that memory allocation implementations written throughout the years as part of IoT devices and embedded software have not incorporated proper input validations. Without these input validations, an attacker could exploit the memory allocation function to perform a heap overflow, resulting in execution of malicious code on a target device.

The memory allocation vulnerabilities can be invoked by calling the memory allocation function, such as malloc(VALUE), with the VALUE parameter derived dynamically from external input and being large enough to trigger an integer overflow or wraparound. The concept is as follows: When


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