Archive for the ‘Microsoft Defender for IoT’ Category

Securing IoT devices against attacks that target critical infrastructure

South Staffordshire PLC, a company that supplies water to over one million customers in the United Kingdom, notified its customers in August of being a target of a criminal cyberattack. This incident highlights the sophisticated threats that critical industries face today.  According to South Staffordshire, the breach did not appear to have caused damage to the systems and it did not impact their ability to supply safe water to their customers.

The attack brings to light the risk of threat actors gaining access to industrial control system (ICS) environments. According to reports, a group using Cl0p ransomware claimed responsibility for the attack, which followed a familiar extortion model wherein attackers extort the target for exfiltrated data without encrypting the organization’s files. After the attack, confidential documents, along with screenshots of the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system used by water treatment plants were leaked.

As details of the attack and the vector used to access South Staffordshire PLC’s networks are limited, the Microsoft Defender for IoT research team did further research on techniques used by threat actors in similar attacks. Microsoft researchers have previously observed activity relating to internet-exposed IoT devices across different industries, which may be used as a potential foothold into OT networks. Threat actors gain access by deploying malware on information technology (IT) devices and then crossing the boundary to the operational technology (OT) part of the network to target high-value operational assets, or by compromising unmanaged, usually less secure IoT and OT devices.

IoT devices in critical infrastructure networks

IoT devices offer significant value to organizations and extend beyond environmental monitoring sensors to common office equipment and network devices. However, IoT devices in critical infrastructure networks, if not properly secured, increase the risk of unauthorized access to operational assets and networks. Improper configurations such as default credentials and unpatched vulnerabilities are often abused by threat actors to gain network or device access. Once access is established, attackers could identify other assets on the same network, perform reconnaissance, and plan large-scale attacks on sensitive equipment and devices.

In monitoring threats against critical infrastructure and utilities, Microsoft researchers investigated water utility providers in the United Kingdom with exposed IoT devices within their networks. Using open-source intelligence (OSINT) and Microsoft Defender Threat Intelligence data, the team searched for exposed IoT devices integrated into the networks of water utility providers and found that such facilities were using Draytek Vigor routers, which are intended for home use.

Map showing global distribution of Draytek Vigor devices exposed to the Internet
Figure 1. Global mapping of internet-exposed Draytek Vigor devices

With difficult-to-patch devices such as printers, cameras, routers, and gateway devices overlooked as potential footholds into networks, they are often left exposed. In analyzing Microsoft threat intelligence, Microsoft researchers observed threat actors abusing a known remote code execution vulnerability in Draytek Vigor devices (CVE-2020-8515) to deploy the Mirai botnet. Once attackers establish device access, remote code execution vulnerabilities such as CVE-2020-8515 can then allow attackers to run malicious commands on devices, move laterally within the network, and access other vulnerable devices which were not directly exposed to the internet such as SCADA systems. 

In water treatment applications, SCADA systems allow water plants to monitor levels of specific chemicals and toxins and to collect records of the systems. While the attack against South Staffordshire PLC does not appear to have included the abuse of these devices, the release of files pertaining to OT systems constitutes a high-risk to operations and highlights the importance of network segmentation to protect devices and networks from lateral movement.

Defending critical networks

Attacks on utility providers’ OT networks and devices are high-risk events that can range from data theft to the manipulation of devices controlling the operations. Such events can lead to the interruption of operations, or in severe cases, potential harm to individuals and customers (For example, when hackers gained access to the water system of one Florida city as reported in February 2021).

Given the severity of these attacks and their potential impact on the utility providers’ operations and even the safety of their customers, it becomes crucial to recognize the importance of proper security practices around IoT & OT unmanaged devices to ensure that such attacks do not happen. Defenses set up for OT networks must be comprehensive, able to prevent unauthorized system access and should include detections for abnormal, unfamiliar, and malicious behaviors after a breach.

It is important to protect assets and have strict security protocols in place for how and when devices and data can be accessed. We recommend the following defense strategies for organizations with both IoT and OT devices within their networks:  

  • Adopt a comprehensive IoT and OT security solution such as Microsoft Defender for IoT to allow visibility and monitoring of all IoT and OT devices, threat detection and response, and integration with SIEM/SOAR and XDR platforms such as Microsoft Sentinel and Microsoft Defender 365.
  • Enable vulnerability assessments to identify unpatched devices in the organizational network and set workflows for initiating appropriate patch processes through  Microsoft Defender Vulnerability Management and Microsoft Defender for Endpoint with the Microsoft Defender for IoT add-on.
  • Reduce the attack surface by eliminate unnecessary internet connections to IoT devices and OT control systems. Implement Zero Trust practices by applying network segmentation to prevent an attacker from moving laterally and compromising assets after intrusion. IoT devices and OT networks should be isolated from IT and OT networks with firewalls. Extend vulnerability and exposure control beyond the firewall with Microsoft Defender External Attack Surface Management. Turn on attack surface reduction rules in Microsoft Defender for Endpoint to prevent common attack techniques such as those used by ransomware groups.
  • Increase network security by enforcing multi factor authentication (MFA) methods such as Azure Active Directory MFA. Enable network protection to prevent applications or users from accessing malicious domains and other malicious content on the internet.

David Atch, Ilana Sivan, and Mae Dotan, Microsoft Defender for IoT Research Team
Ross Bevington, Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC)
Jaclyn Blumenfield, Microsoft Defender Threat Intelligence

The post Securing IoT devices against attacks that target critical infrastructure appeared first on Microsoft Security Blog.

Introducing security for unmanaged devices in the Enterprise network with Microsoft Defender for IoT

July 11th, 2022 No comments

How many IoT devices are used at your company? If yours is like most organizations, there are probably printers, scanners, and fax machines scattered around the office. Perhaps smart TVs are mounted at reception or in the break room to guide visitors and keep employees up-to-date on company events and news. Or maybe highly connected conference systems bring teams together to collaborate. For some organizations, IoT also includes operational technology (OT) devices used in industrial systems and critical infrastructure. You and your employees probably view these devices as tools to help operate more efficiently. Unfortunately, so do cybercriminals.

While IoT devices can easily outnumber managed endpoints like laptops and mobile phones, they often lack the same safeguards that would ensure their security. To bad actors, these unmanaged devices can be used as a point of entry, for lateral movement, or evasion. The chart below showcases a typical attack lifecycle involving two IoT devices, where one is used as a point of entry, and another one for lateral movement. Too often, the use of such tactics leads to the exfiltration of sensitive information.

Attack lifecycle includes use of IoT devices during intrusion, scanning, exploitation, credential stealing, lateral movement, data theft, and exfiltration stages.

Introducing protection for Enterprise IoT devices in Microsoft Defender for IoT

At the 2021 Microsoft Ignite, we announced the preview of enterprise IoT security capabilities in Microsoft Defender for IoT. With these new capabilities, Defender for IoT adds agentless monitoring to secure enterprise IoT devices connected to IT networks, like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), printers, and smart TVs. A dedicated integration with Microsoft 365 Defender allows Defender for Endpoint customers to extend their extended detection and response (XDR) coverage to include IoT devices. Today, we’re excited to announce the general availability of these capabilities in Defender for IoT.

Defender for IoT covers micro-agents, OT and Enterprise IoT devices with agentless monitoring. for complete protection, Defender for Endpoint covers all managed endpoints.

With this new addition, Defender for IoT now delivers comprehensive security for all endpoint types, applications, identities, and operating systems. The new capabilities allow organizations to get the visibility and insights they need to address complex multi-stage attacks that specifically take advantage of IoT and OT devices to achieve their goals. Customers will now be able to get the same types of vulnerability management, threat detection, response, and other capabilities for enterprise IoT devices that were previously only available for managed endpoints and OT devices.

Further, to make Enterprise IoT security accessible to more customers, we are introducing a dedicated native integration for Microsoft 365 Defender customers. The new integration helps customers to discover and secure IoT devices within Microsoft 365 Defender environments in minutes.

Defender for IoT user interface maps all discovered IoT and OT assets in a single view, allowing to monitor, sort, and uncover connections across devices.

Identifying unmanaged devices

You can’t secure a device if you don’t know it exists. Taking a thorough inventory of all IoT devices can be expensive, challenging, and time-consuming. Employees may connect IoT devices to the network without first notifying IT or operations.

By using the existing Microsoft Defender for Endpoint clients, which are often deployed pervasively across an organization’s infrastructure, we can provide immediate device discovery with no additional deployment or configuration required. For the most complete view of your IoT and OT devices, and specifically for network segments where Defender for Endpoint sensors are not present, Defender for IoT includes a deployable network sensor that can be used to collect all of the network data it needs for discovery, behavioral analytics, and machine learning.

Understanding device vulnerabilities

Knowing all the devices present in your network is a critical step to securing your IoT—but it’s only the first step. To understand the potential risk that those devices pose to your network and organization, you need to be able to stay on top of insecure configurations and vulnerabilities that may be present within your inventory of devices.

These types of devices are often unpatched, misconfigured, and unmonitored, which makes them an immediate target for an attacker. Defender for IoT assesses all your enterprise IoT devices, offering recommendations in the Microsoft 365 console as part of the ongoing investigation flow for network-based alerts. 

New IoT devices are being introduced into an environment all the time. Because of that, the identification and risk assessment processes run continuously within Defender for IoT to ensure maximum visibility and posture at all times.

Securing IoT devices against threats

Threat detection remains one of the most difficult tasks in the IoT domain. Defender for IoT customers benefit from the machine learning and threat intelligence obtained from trillions of signals collected daily across the global Microsoft ecosystem (like email, endpoints, cloud, Microsoft Azure Active Directory, and Microsoft 365), augmented by IoT- and OT-specific intelligence. By applying machine learning and threat intelligence, we help our customers to reduce the alert signal to noise ratio by providing them with prioritized incidents that render end-to-end attacks in complete context rather than giving them an endless list of uncorrelated alerts.

Just recently, this approach enabled Defender for IoT to rank number one in threat visibility coverage in the MITRE ATT&CK for ICS evaluation, successfully detecting malicious activity for 100 percent of major attack steps and 96 percent of all adversary sub-steps, with fewest missed detections of any other vendor.

Defender for IoT: Complete coverage across all IoT/OT

It is certain that the demand for digital transformation and pressure to remain competitive will continue incentivizing organizations to embrace more IoT technologies, whether they are smart TVs in offices or industrial controllers in plants. Chief Information Security Officers will soon be responsible for an attack surface area that is many times larger than their managed device footprint. With the latest release in Defender for IoT, we’re extending coverage to enterprise IoT devices to help customers remain secure across the entire spectrum of their IoT technologies. What’s more, for the first time we’re enabling our Defender for Endpoint customers to gain visibility into their IoT devices within minutes and without buying or deploying any additional technologies or products.

Microsoft Defender for IoT remains a major component of the broader Microsoft SIEM and XDR solutions. Through native integration with Microsoft Defender and Microsoft Sentinel, we can provide customers with the automation and visualization tools they need to address attacks crossing IT and OT network boundaries. These integrations also empower analysts to perform incident response holistically rather than as separate disconnected attacks that require extensive manual investigations to bring together. With these efficiency gains, organizations can stop attacks and bring their environments back to a pre-breach state far more quickly.

We’re excited to reach this major milestone on our journey to securing customers in IoT and OT and invite you to explore how Defender for IoT can help your organization.

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