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Internet of Things vulnerability disclosures grew 57%

Vulnerability disclosures impacting IoT devices increased by 57% in the first half of 2022 compared to the previous six months, according to new research released by cyber-physical systems protection company Claroty.

The State of XIoT Security Report: 1H 2022 also found that over the same time period, vendor self-disclosures increased by 69%, becoming more prolific reporters than independent research outfits for the first time, and fully or partially remediated firmware vulnerabilities increased by 79%, a notable improvement given the relative challenges in patching firmware versus software vulnerabilities.

Compiled by Team82, Claroty's research team, the report is a deep examination and analysis of vulnerabilities impacting the Extended Internet of Things (XIoT), a vast network of cyber-physical systems including operational technology and industrial control systems (OT/ICS), Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), building management systems, and enterprise IoT.

The data set comprises vulnerabilities discovered by Team82 and from trusted open sources including the National Vulnerability Database (NVD), the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT), CERT@VDE, MITRE, and industrial automation vendors Schneider Electric and Siemens.

“After decades of connecting things to the internet, cyber-physical systems are having a direct impact on our experiences in the real world, including the food we eat, the water we drink, the elevators we ride, and the medical care we receive,” says Amir Preminger, vice president of research at Claroty.

“We conducted this research to give decision makers within these critical sectors a complete snapshot of the XIoT vulnerability landscape, empowering them to properly assess, prioritise, and address risks to the mission-critical systems underpinning public safety, patient health, smart grids and utilities, and more.

Key Findings

IoT Devices: 15% of vulnerabilities were found in IoT devices, a significant increase from 9% in Team82's last report covering the second half (2H) of 2021. Additionally, for the first time, the combination of IoT and IoMT vulnerabilities (18.2%) exceeded IT vulnerabilities (16.5%). This indicates enhanced understanding on the part of vendors and researchers to secure these connected devices as they can be a gateway to deeper network penetration.
 
Vendor Self-Disclosures: For the first time, vendor self-disclosures (29%) have surpassed independent research outfits (19%) as the second most prolific vulnerability reporters, after third-party security companies (45%). The 214 published CVEs almost doubles the total in Team82's 2H 2021 report of 127. This indicates that more OT, IoT, and IoMT vendors are establishing vulnerability disclosure programs and dedicating more resources to examining the security and safety of their products than ever before.
 
Firmware: Published firmware vulnerabilities were nearly on par with software vulnerabilities (46% and 48% respectively), a huge jump from the 2H 2021 report when there was almost a 2:1 disparity between software (62%) and firmware (37%). The report also revealed a significant increase in fully or partially remediated firmware vulnerabilities (40% in 1H 2022, up from 21% in 2H 2021), which is notable given the relative challenges in patching firmware due to longer update cycles and infrequent maintenance windows. This indicates researchers' growing interest in safeguarding devices at lower levels of the Purdue Model, which are more directly connected to the process itself and thus a more attractive target for attackers.
 
Volume and Criticality: On average, XIoT vulnerabilities are being published and addressed at a rate of 125 per month, reaching a total of 747 in 1H 2022. The vast majority have CVSS scores of either critical (19%) or high severity (46%).
 
Impacts: Nearly three-quarters (71%) have a high impact on system and device availability, the impact metric most applicable to XIoT devices. The leading potential impact is unauthorised remote code or command execution (prevalent in 54% of vulnerabilities), followed by denial-of-service conditions (crash, exit, or restart) at 43%.
 
Mitigations: The top mitigation step is network segmentation (recommended in 45% of vulnerability disclosures), followed by secure remote access (38%) and ransomware, phishing, and spam protection (15%).

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