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FBI Alert Number I-091015-PSA

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

FBI Alert Number I-091015-PSA is a public service announcement from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation to inform individuals and organizations about the importance of Internet of Things (IoT) security, including potential vulnerabilities and protective measures that should be taken to mitigate risk associated with them.

The title of the public service announcement is “Internet of Things poses opportunities for cyber crime.” The essence of the IoT is the idea that almost anything can be equipped with a unique identifier and the ability to communicate over a network. What that means is that the number of connected devices is increasing quickly and exponentially and the potential attack surface is increasing at least as rapidly and significantly. What may be lagging, however, is the security measures required to protect that expanding attack surface.

Much of the increase in IoT communication comes from computing devices and embedded sensor systems used in industrial machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, smart energy gridshome and building automationvehicle to vehicle communication and wearable computing devices. Because the idea of networking such items as home appliances and other non-computing devices is relatively new, products that can be IoT devices (things) may not be designed with security in mind.

The FBI lists the following examples of IoT devices:

  • Automated devices which remotely or automatically adjust lighting or HVAC
  • Security systems, such as security alarms or Wi-Fi cameras, including video monitors used in nursery and daycare settings
  • Medical devices, such as wireless heart monitors or insulin dispensers
  • Thermostats
  • Wearables, such as fitness devices
  • Lighting modules which activate or deactivate lights
  • Smart appliances, such as smart refrigerators and TVs
  • Office equipment, such as printers
  • Entertainment devices to control music or television from a mobile device
  • Fuel monitoring systems

Any device in that list can be hacked if connected to the Internet and not adequately protected. Furthermore, hacked devices can provide an attacker with access to sensitive data on the same network. During her keynote address at the 2015 IoT Security Conference in Boston, FBI CISO Arlette Hart discussed how the growth rate of the Internet of Things is outpacing security efforts and implored enterprises to take action before disaster strikes. Hart remarked that in technology, "Cool trumps safe. The capabilities, themselves, are almost always developed without security in mind. We need to change that."

 

This was last updated in January 2016

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