New Devil’s Ivy Vulnerability Causing Rash of IoT Risks

July 20, 2017 @ 10:20 AM
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2 min read

A newly discovered vulnerability known as Devil’s Ivy is causing a rash of Internet of Things (IoT) risks. According to SecurityWeek, IoT security firm Senrio discovered the flaw in a connected camera.

If threat actors are able to exploit the vulnerability, they can both view camera feeds and block access. So far, Ivy is more annoying than apocalyptic, but Senrio’s blog post suggested that “tens of millions” of systems could be affected.

Scratching at the Door

Cybercriminals are always looking for another way into enterprise systems. IoT devices are the next frontier, since they’re often secured with stock permissions and rely on open source code to speed up time to market and enable interoperability.

As noted by Threatpost, that’s the problem here: An open source software library called gSOAP contains a communication-layer flaw that lets fraudsters carry out buffer overflow attacks by flooding port 80 with data. Then, the malicious actors can send payloads that give them the ability to execute arbitrary code or reset device firmware to factory defaults.

For the 249 IoT cameras carrying Devil’s Ivy, this means attackers could hijack live feeds or prevent authorized users from accessing camera data. Cameras in high-security areas such as banks or government facilities can be hijacked to conduct reconnaissance for later attacks. They could also be rendered useless, allowing criminals to break the law without fear of being recorded.

According to Wired, at least 34 companies are on record as using gSOAP in their products, but the number may be much higher since the code is open source. While code-maker Genivia already released a patch for CVE-2017-9765, there’s no guarantee that all affected IoT devices have been secured.

Open Source Standoff

Ultimately, IoT device risks are symptomatic of two larger problems: code reuse and poor security protocols. As noted by Dark Reading, the average application is 79 percent library code and just 21 percent custom code. Furthermore, 76 percent of these applications contain at least one security vulnerability, and 34 percent contain four or more.

In effect, reusing open source code also reuses any existing vulnerabilities. If one like Devil’s Ivy attracts the attention of motivated threat actors, the results could be disastrous.

Pair that with lax security measures — such as factory login details that are never changed and passwords that are easy to guess or absent — and it’s a perfect storm of security issues. So far, cameras are the only known vector for this newest open source attack, but with indications that even large vendors such as Microsoft are at risk, this minor IoT rash could get worse — and fast.

Containing the Spread of Devil’s Ivy

So what’s the solution? No more open source code? Realistically, that’s not possible, since enterprises can’t afford to custom-design apps for common functions or build out perfect code when existing libraries save so much time for IT staff.

Instead, Devil’s Ivy is a kind of wake-up call: Just like mission-critical apps and services, IoT devices need to fall under the umbrella of enterprise network security. If they’re not subject to the same scrutiny and testing as other services on the network, they shouldn’t have access to critical data.

Is making the switch time-consuming? Absolutely. Likely to dredge up other security issues? Almost certainly. But it’s better than the irritation of dealing with new vulnerabilities that could quickly transition from simple nuisance to full-blown network compromise.

Douglas Bonderud
Freelance Writer

A freelance writer for three years, Doug Bonderud is a Western Canadian with expertise in the fields of technology and innovation. In addition to working for...
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