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Top IoT protocols hide security risks

(Image credit: Image Credit: Melpomene / Shutterstock)

‘Major design flaws’ and ‘vulnerable implementations’ have been discovered by security researchers in two popular machine-to-machine (M2M) protocols, Trend Micro announced this Wednesday.

Researchers have been scrutinising the protocols Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) and Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP) for four months, and had found more than 200 million MQTT messages and more than 19 million CoAP messages being leaked by exposed brokers and servers.

Hackers could locate leaked information through keyword search, finding ‘lucrative information’ on assets, personnel and technology. Potential attackers could also remotely control IoT endpoints and deny service, as well as maintain ‘persistent access’ to a target, to move laterally across the network.

“The issues we’ve uncovered in two of the most pervasive messaging protocols used by IoT devices today should be cause for organisations to take a serious, holistic look at the security of their OT environments,” said Greg Young, vice president of cybersecurity for Trend Micro. “These protocols weren’t designed with security in mind, but are found in an increasingly wide range of mission critical environments and use cases. This represents a major cybersecurity risk. Hackers with even modest resources could exploit these design flaws and vulnerabilities to conduct reconnaissance, lateral movement, covert data theft and denial-of-service attacks.”

Trend Micro says there are four things organisations can do to protect themselves:

  • Implement proper policies to remove unnecessary M2M services
  • Run periodic checks using internet-wide scanning services to ensure sensitive data is not leaking through public IoT services
  • Implement a vulnerability management workflow or other means to secure the supply chain
  • Stay up to date with industry standards as this technology is evolving rapidly

Image Credit: Melpomene / Shutterstock

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.