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Rise of the machines: Security risks of connected devices during COVID

By Shannon Williams, Fri 13 Aug 2021

Forty two percent of of connected devices were agentless or un-agentable devices, according to a new report from Ordr.

Ordr has released its annual report on the state of connected devices, titled Rise of the Machines 2021: State of Connected devices -- IT, IoT, IoMT and OT. The 2021 report addresses pandemic-related cybersecurity challenges, including the growth of connected devices and related increase of security risks from these devices as threat actors took advantage of chaos to launch attacks.  

The research incorporates security risk and trend analysis of anonymised data for 12 months (June 2020 through June 2021) across the company's 500+ deployments in healthcare, life sciences, retail, and manufacturing verticals.  

The report found the number of agentless and un-agentable devices increased to 42% in this years report (compared to 32% of agentless or un-agentable devices in 2020). These devices include medical and manufacturing devices that are critical to business operations along with network devices, IP phones, video surveillance cameras and facility devices (such as badge readers) that are not designed with security in mind, cannot be patched, and cannot support endpoint security agents. With almost half of devices in the network that are either agentless or un-agentable, organisations need to complement their endpoint security strategy with a network-based security approach to discover and secure these devices.  

As a sign of the times, Ordr also discovered that popular consumer devices are often connected to the enterprise network, including Pelotons, Sonos speakers, gaming machines, Alexas and Teslas. While the usage of unsanctioned shadow IoT devices was highlighted in the 2020 Rise of the Machines report, there are two times more personal devices this year increasing the threat landscape and delivering a wealth of data for threat actors to use to profile targets.   

Ordr identified about 19% of deployments with devices running outdated operating systems Windows 7 and older, and almost 34% of deployments with devices running Windows 8 and Windows 10, which are expected to end-of-life in 2023 and 2025 respectively. Among the report's most troubling findings was the discovery that 15% of medical devices and 32% of medical imaging devices run on outdated operating systems. This is because many medical devices remain in operation for a number of years and cannot be easily replaced for cost reasons. Segmentation is the only way to ensure security of these devices, keep them in operation and avoid the costs of replacing devices early. 

"Once again, we found an astonishing and worrisome number of vulnerabilities and risks in connected devices, which is a crucial reminder that organisations must have comprehensive visibility as well as security for everything connecting to their networks," says Ordr chief executive Greg Murphy. 

"As the number of connected devices climbs, the number and sophistication of attacks targeting them will grow," he says.

Additional findings include:  

  • 46% of all connected devices are vulnerable to medium and high severity attacks. Top attacks included external communications to malicious URLs such as Darkside and Conti ransomware sites, followed by attacks due to vulnerable operating systems and finally lateral movement such as exploits and active threats/tools like Cobalt Strike or Eternal Blue. 
  • 55% of deployments have devices with orphaned user access. Devices with orphan accounts retain the same access rights as when they were associated with an active user. These orphaned user accounts provide a gateway to privilege escalation and lateral movement.  
     
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