Exploring the World of IoT Hacking


When we talk about “IoT Hacking,” many people think about taking apart gadgets, figuring out how they work, and looking into their software. But there’s more to IoT hacking than just these technical challenges. Our research into cybersecurity threats show us a hidden world of digital battles. Groups of hackers are focusing more and more on attacking IoT (Internet of Things) and OT (Operational Technology) systems. These aren’t just any gadgets; they’re essential parts of systems that keep our countries running. They help manage everything from the electricity we use, to the gas stations that fuel our cars.

The Real Impact of IoT Attacks

Think about it: what if a hacker could stop your car from getting gas with just a click? This isn’t just a scary thought; it’s a real possibility because many of these IoT devices are connected to the internet without strong protections. And the problem is, the companies making these devices are rushing to get them out without focusing enough on their security. This rush can leave big gaps in protection, making it easier for hackers to sneak in.

Why It Matters

These IoT and OT devices are vital. They’re not just tech gadgets but the foundation of services that keep our societies and economies going. When hackers target these systems, they’re not just messing with machines. They’re threatening the very services that countries rely on every day. Our work in cybersecurity keeps showing us that our critical systems are under attack more often than we realise. 

Discoveries By The Samurai Team

Our Samurai team, a group of expert security researchers, has dug deep into the digital world and found a lot of hidden weaknesses in IoT and OT devices. These aren’t just any problems; they’re zero-day vulnerabilities, which means they were unknown before we found them. We’ve even worked with top security organizations, like the American Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), to let device makers know about these issues so they can fix them.

But here’s the thing: what we’ve found so far is just the beginning. It’s like we’ve only spotted a few drops of water in a huge ocean. Believe it or not, with a simple internet search, anyone can find out how to access a ton of these devices. This shows just how many of them are out there, not well-protected and open for anyone to stumble upon. It’s a big reminder of the work we still need to do to make these devices safer.

A Lesson in Half Measures

One of our sharp-eyed researchers found a big security flaw in a well-known broadcasting device that sends audio over the internet. This wasn’t just any problem; it was an OS Command Injection, which is pretty serious because it could let hackers take control of the device. So, we did the right thing and told the company that makes the device about the issue. They tried to fix it by updating the device’s software so that someone from the outside couldn’t exploit the flaw anymore.

But here’s the catch: when they updated the software, they didn’t completely solve the problem. We checked the device again after the update and found out that if someone already had access to the device (like a logged-in user), they could still exploit the same vulnerability. This shows that fixing a security issue halfway isn’t enough. It’s like locking the front door but leaving the back door open. It’s a clear example of why it’s important to fully address security vulnerabilities, not just cover them up so they’re harder to see.

In another one of our cybersecurity adventures, we stumbled upon a tricky problem in the software that runs fuel stations. This wasn’t a straightforward issue; it was a complex one where two different problems teamed up to cause trouble. The software, written in C++, had a flaw that let us, or any hacker savvy enough, change important files from outside the system. This trick involved moving through the system’s directories in a way it shouldn’t allow (that’s called path traversal) and then writing into files in a way that could change their contents completely (using the “write into binary” mode in a function called fwrite).

What we did could be compared to finding a secret path into a fortress and then being able to rewrite the rules of the fortress from the inside. The most alarming part? We were able to mess with the passwd file, which is crucial for Linux systems—it’s where user passwords are stored. By changing this file, we could give ourselves the highest level of access to the system (that’s called “root” access in Linux), or even sneak in a backdoor that would let us or anyone else in later without being noticed. This example really shows how small software flaws can lead to big security problems, making it super important to catch and fix these issues early on.

The Problem with Quick Fixes

When companies find out about security holes, they often go for quick fixes. These are like putting a band-aid on a wound without really treating it. We’ve seen cases where a company patches a device so it seems safe from the outside, but once you’re in, the same problems are still there. Some fixes only hide the problem instead of solving it. It’s like locking the front door but leaving the back door wide open.

Time to Step Up IoT and OT Security

Our exploration into the world of IoT and OT shows us a worrying picture: lots of devices out there are easy targets for hackers. But it’s not all bad news. This situation is really a wake-up call for everyone making and using these devices. We get it, everyone’s excited about new technology, but we can’t forget about keeping things safe. Making sure these devices aren’t easy to attack by limiting their internet access is a good first step. But we also need to do more, like checking for weaknesses regularly, updating their software, and using strong passwords and encryption.

How We Can Make Things Safer

Keeping the IoT world safe isn’t a one-person job. It needs a team effort from the companies making these devices, security experts, and even the government. We need to set strict rules for security, be open about the problems we find, and help everyone understand how to protect themselves. As we move through this tricky territory, it’s clear we need to do more to look after both our online and offline worlds. This means being proactive and all-in when it comes to managing and protecting our connected devices.

Key Takeaways

Our deep dive into the realms of IoT and OT security has shed light on a critical aspect of our modern, connected world. The increasing attacks on these crucial systems reveal a hidden battleground where the stakes are the very infrastructure that powers our societies. Here’s what we’ve learned:

  • The Importance of IoT and OT Devices: These devices do more than just make life convenient; they’re the backbone of essential services that keep our world running smoothly. Their security isn’t just about protecting gadgets; it’s about safeguarding our way of life.
  • The Reality of Threats: The threats to these systems are real and growing. Hackers are getting more sophisticated, and the devices we depend on are often vulnerable, sometimes due to the rush to get them to market without adequate security measures.
  • The Discoveries of Samurai Researchers: Our Samurai team has uncovered numerous hidden vulnerabilities, highlighting the vast amount of work that needs to be done to secure these devices. What we’ve found is just the tip of the iceberg, showing how exposed many devices are.
  • The Dangers of Half Measures: Simply patching devices without fully addressing vulnerabilities leaves them open to attacks. It’s clear that more comprehensive solutions are needed to truly secure devices from both external and internal threats.
  • The Need for Comprehensive Security Practices: It’s not enough to just patch vulnerabilities as they’re discovered. A more proactive approach is needed, including regular security assessments, updates, and the adoption of strong security protocols.
  • A Call for Collective Action: Securing the IoT ecosystem requires a concerted effort from manufacturers, security experts, and regulators. We need to establish strict security standards, encourage transparency, and educate users on protecting their device.

Our journey through IoT and OT security highlights the urgent need for increased attention and action to protect these vital systems. By understanding the scope of the problem, acknowledging the complexity of the challenges, and committing to comprehensive security measures, we can begin to secure the connected world for future generations.