Protecting IoT devices from cyberattacks: A critical missing piece: Page 8 of 10

August 04, 2017 //By Alan Grau, Icon Labs
Protecting IoT devices from cyberattacks: A critical missing piece
When it comes to protecting IoT devices from cyber attacks, both device hardening and security appliance approaches each has its supporters, but there are trade-offs between “device-centric” and “appliance-centric.”
using existing network connectivity. Most were manufactured with inadequate security.

Unfortunately, the upgrade process may be difficult, expensive, or impossible. Some devices cannot be upgraded without being returned to the factory. In some cases, the manufacturer may no longer support the device, or may be out of business. Replacing the devices is often simply too expensive to be an option and newer devices may not yet be available with improved security.

For devices and systems that cannot be easily or affordably replaced or upgraded, a “bump-in-the-wire” appliance solution can provide the required security. This type of solution can protect legacy devices that are otherwise vulnerable. The bump-in-the-wire appliance provides security by enforcing communication policies, ensuring only valid communication is allowed with the protected device.

The security appliance must provide the ability to configure communication policies, a set of rules specifying which packets are processed and which are blocked. Smart-grid devices may only need to communicate with a small number of other devices. This can be enforced using communications polices that restrict communication to only what is required.

Communication policies define who the device is allowed to talk to, what protocols are allowed, and what ports are open. The policies are then encoded as firewall rules. Rules can be set up to block or allow packets by IP address, port, protocol, or other criteria.

Some firewalls support advanced rules allowing additional fine-grained control over the filtering process. The security appliance then filters messages before the device processes the messages, allowing only communication with known, trusted devices.

In a system without a security appliance, a hacker may attempt to remotely access the device using default passwords, dictionary attacks, or stolen passwords. Such attacks are often automated, allowing a huge number of attempts to break the system’s password.

The same system can be protected by a firewall configured with a whitelist of trusted hosts. The firewall’s filters will block attacks from the hacker

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