A Guide to IoT Security Testing: Best Tools & Techniques

Alona O. by Alona O. on 12/20/2023

A Guide to IoT Security Testing: Best Tools & Techniques

Though the Internet of Things (IoT) has redefined our lives and brought a lot of benefits, it has a large attack surface area that’s highly vulnerable to cyber attacks. If not properly secured, IoT devices can be easily hacked by cybercriminals, which can lead to serious consequences, especially in niches like finance that deals with lots of financial and sensitive customer data. Therefore, the Internet of Things solutions require much more thorough testing to prevent information leaks and damage to the hardware. How to do it right, what types of IoT testing exist, and which techniques are the most effective – keep reading to find answers to all of these questions.

The Importance of Securing Your IoT

The IoT market is growing quickly. Perhaps there’s no area that smart devices haven’t touched. From healthcare to everyday life, IoT devices have become our reliable assistants, just a step behind smartphones in their ubiquity. As we look at the statistics, we can see they will gain even more traction in the coming years. Predictions show that the number of devices could reach 29 billion by 2030 — double the 15.1 billion recorded in 2020. These numbers reveal that IoT will continue to be a lucrative industry that will keep growing. 

However, the downside is that this industry is highly susceptible to attacks. If not properly secured, IoT devices can become a gateway for cybercriminals, allowing them to access sensitive data and tamper with systems. This vulnerability is not just a threat to individual privacy but also poses potential security risks to businesses and national security. 

You might have heard of some really bad attacks that have occurred because of unsecured IoT devices. One of the most sensational cases, without a doubt, is the Mirai botnet attack in 2016. In just one day, millions of IoT devices were hijacked to launch a massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, disrupting Internet services across the globe. This security incident alone is enough to illustrate the catastrophic consequences of neglecting IoT security. 

What Is IoT Security Testing?

Considering the risks of focusing too much on the usability of devices and ignoring their security, IoT security testing becomes a critical component in safeguarding the entire IoT ecosystem. Essentially, IoT security testing is what it says on the tin. It’s the practice of evaluating cloud-connected devices and networks to reveal security flaws and prevent devices from being hacked and compromised by a third party. The biggest IoT security risks and challenges can be addressed through comprehensive testing strategies and a focused approach to the most critical IoT vulnerabilities.

Most Critical IoT Security Vulnerabilities

There are typical issues in security analysis faced by organizations that need to be addressed, even by experienced companies. Consequently, adequate testing of Internet of Things security in networks and devices is required, as a single security breach in the system can bring a business to a standstill, leading to financial losses and declining customer loyalty.

Let’s take a closer look at the most malicious security issues to watch out for.

Weak Easy-to-Guess Passwords

Absurdly simple and short passwords that put personal data at risk are among the primary IoT security risks and vulnerabilities for most cloud-connected devices and their owners. Hackers can co-opt multiple devices with a single guessable password, jeopardizing the entire IoT network. 

Insecure Ecosystem Interfaces

Insufficient encryption and verification of the user’s identity or access rights in the ecosystem architecture (i.e., software, hardware, firmware, network, and interfaces outside of the device) enable the devices and associated components to get infected by malware. Any element in the broad network of connected technologies is a potential source of risk.

Insecure Network Services

Particular attention should be paid to services running on the device, especially those exposed to the Internet and with a high risk of unauthorized access. Do not keep ports open, update protocols, and ban any unusual traffic.

Outdated Components

Outdated software components or frameworks leave connected devices vulnerable to cyberattacks. These security weaknesses allow third parties to access the internal network and tamper with the performance of these gadgets, potentially operating them remotely or expanding the attack surface for the organization.

Insecure Data Transfer/ Storage

The more devices connected to the Internet, the higher the data storage/exchange level must be. Failure to securely encode sensitive data, whether stored or transmitted, can cause the entire system to fail. 

Bad IoT Device Management

Inadequate management of IoT devices occurs due to poor network perception and visibility. Organizations may have many different devices that they do not even know about and that provide easy entry points for attackers. IoT developers are simply not prepared in terms of proper planning, implementation, and management tools.

Poor Secure Update Mechanism

The ability to securely update the software, which is the core of any IoT device, reduces the chances of it being compromised. The gadget becomes vulnerable every time cybercriminals discover a weak point in security. Similarly, if it is not fixed with regular updates, or if there are no regular notifications of security-related changes, it can become compromised over time.

Inadequate Privacy Protection

Personal information is gathered and stored in larger amounts on IoT devices than smartphones. In case of improper access, there is always a threat of your information being exposed and exploited for malicious purposes. It is a major privacy concern because most Internet of Things technologies, to some extent, are related to monitoring and controlling gadgets at home, which can lead to serious consequences later on.

Poor Physical Hardening

Poor physical hardening is another critical vulnerability. These devices are often placed in easily accessible locations like offices and public places, making them prone to physical tampering. Without robust physical security measures, attackers can gain access to these devices, allowing them to manipulate, extract, or destroy data. This vulnerability is particularly concerning for devices used in critical infrastructure. 

Insecure Default Settings

Some IoT devices come with default settings that cannot be modified, or operators need alternatives regarding security adjustments. The initial configuration should be adjustable. Default settings that are invariant across multiple devices are insecure. Once guessed, they can be used to hack into other devices.


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Types of IoT Security Testing

2 - A Guide to IoT Security Testing_ Best Tools & Techniques

Now that we’ve covered the most common security vulnerabilities, it’s time to learn about IoT security testing methods to help identify and mitigate these risks. Each type of testing aims at targeting different aspects of IoT security to keep systems safe.

IoT Penetration Testing

IoT penetration testing is a simulated attack performed by security teams to identify vulnerabilities in devices and enhance data security. IoT penetration testers conduct real-world evaluations of the entire IoT system, which includes not just the device and the software product but the whole connected ecosystem. 

Threat Modeling

Another popular method used to find security issues in IoT devices or networks is threat modeling. In this testing activity, security professionals create a checklist of the most probable attack methods and suggest countermeasures to mitigate them. This method aims at ensuring the security of systems by providing an analysis of necessary security controls. 

Firmware Analysis

Firmware analysis is an essential part of IoT security testing. This process delves deep into the firmware, the core software embedded directly in the hardware of IoT products, such as routers, heart monitors, and so on. By examining the firmware, security testers can identify vulnerabilities like backdoors and buffer overflows that might not be apparent on the surface but could have significant implications for the overall security program of an IoT device. 

Best Practices to Protect IoT Systems and Devices

Gadgets offering great UX but lacking data privacy can pose significant risks to IoT systems and devices. To mitigate these risks and enhance security, adopting a set of best security practices is crucial. Here are some key strategies to protect IoT systems and devices:

  • Introduce IoT security during the design phase. IoT security strategy is most valuable if initially introduced during the design stage. Most concerns and threats with risks to an Internet of Things solution may be avoided by identifying them during preparation and planning.
  • Network security. Since networks pose the risk of any IoT device being remotely controlled, they play a critical role in cyber protection strategy. The network stability is ensured by port security, antimalware, firewalls, and banned IP addresses a user does not usually use.
  • API security. Sophisticated businesses and websites use APIs to connect services, transfer data, and integrate various types of information in one place, making them a target for hackers. A hacked API can result in the disclosure of confidential information. That is why only approved apps and devices should be permitted to send requests and responses with APIs.
  • Segmentation. Following segmentation for a corporate network is essential if multiple IoT devices connect directly to the web. Each device should use its small local network (segment) with limited access to the main network.
  • Security gateways. They serve as an additional level in security IoT infrastructure before sending data a device produces to the Internet. They help to track and analyze incoming and outgoing traffic, ensuring someone else cannot directly reach the gadget.
  • Software updates. Users should be able to set changes to software and devices by updating them over a network connection or through automation. Improved software means incorporating new features and assisting in identifying and eliminating security defects in the early stages.
  • Integrating teams. Many people are involved in the IoT development process. They are equally responsible for ensuring the product’s security throughout the full lifecycle. It is preferable to have IoT developers get together with security experts to share guidance and necessary security controls right from the design stage.

To create trustworthy devices and protect them from cyber threats, you have to maintain a defensive and proactive security strategy throughout the entire development cycle.

3 - A Guide to IoT Security Testing_ Best Tools & Techniques

Best Tools for IoT Pentesting

As we’ve mentioned, performing security testing requires a set of solid skills and in-depth knowledge of various domains. On top of that, it’s vital to be adept at using pentesting tools. Further down, we outline the most common tools that are widely used in the field of IoT security and should be mastered by security professionals.

  1. Wireshark: This tool is essential for network protocol analysis and packet capture. It helps in understanding the data flow and spotting vulnerabilities in network communications. 
  2. NMAP: A network scanning tool, Nmap is crucial for discovering devices on a network, identifying open ports, and detecting services running on IoT devices. 
  3. Metasploit: This framework is key for developing and executing exploit code against a remote target machine. It’s widely used for vulnerability validation and demonstrating the impact of vulnerabilities. 
  4. Burp Suite: An integrated platform for performing security testing of web applications, Burp Suite is invaluable for testing IoT devices that interact with web-based interfaces. 
  5. Aircrack-Ng: For IoT systems that use wireless communication, Aircrack-ng is a must-have for assessing network security and performing tasks like network monitoring and traffic analysis. 
  6. John the Ripper: As a password-cracking tool, John the Ripper is widely used for recovering passwords and testing the strength of password security in IoT devices. 
  7. SQLMap: This tool automates detecting and exploiting SQL injection flaws, which is crucial for testing IoT devices that interact with databases. 
  8. OWASP ZAP: An open-source tool for finding vulnerabilities in web applications, OWASP ZAP is particularly useful for testing IoT devices with web interfaces. 
  9. Binwalk: Specializing in firmware analysis, Binwalk is used for extracting and analyzing the firmware of IoT devices, which is essential for understanding device operation and potential vulnerabilities. 

Each of these tools addresses specific aspects of IoT security and is a must-have in the toolkit of penetration testers and security professionals. However, it’s always a good idea to stay updated with the latest developments in security tools and practices, as the field is continually evolving.

The Benefits of Hiring Professional Security Teams

Unless you have in-house expertise, hiring a professional team of testers specializing in IoT security testing is a wise decision. Testing IoT systems is a complex task. It encompasses a variety of domains, including cloud-based services, mobile, web, hardware, and firmware. These areas can easily divert your focus from core business operations and potentially hinder your growth. Therefore, bringing in expertise from the outside can be a strategic move. 

At QArea, we’ve got a wealth of experience in evaluating the security of diverse IoT ecosystems. From identifying vulnerabilities in cloud-based services to identifying the intricacies of mobile, web, hardware, and firmware components, we are adept at the best testing practices and can guarantee our clients strong protection against potential threats.

Here’s just a small part of what our team can do for you:

Review Your IoT Security Architecture

Our team will thoroughly review your IoT security architecture, identifying any vulnerabilities in IoT devices. We’ll assess the robustness of your application security and ensure that your IoT devices’ security and privacy aspects are up to standard. This review is crucial in understanding how well your devices and their software can withstand potential security threats.

Perform Penetration Testing

We specialize in penetration testing. By simulating real-world attacks, we can identify weaknesses in your system before malicious actors try to exploit them. This includes testing both the hardware and software components of your IoT ecosystem.

Test the Entire IoT Ecosystem

Our approach is holistic; we test the entire ecosystem. This means not just looking at individual devices but also how they interact within the network. Monitoring IoT devices in their operational environment allows us to provide comprehensive security solutions.

Conduct All Types of Security Testing

We conduct all types of security testing, from static and dynamic analysis to software composition analysis. This ensures that every aspect of your IoT system, from the device firmware to the software development lifecycle, is secure and resilient against cyber threats.

Assess Risks

Risk assessment is a key part of our service. We evaluate the potential risks associated with your IoT devices and systems, providing you with a clear understanding of where your vulnerabilities lie and how they can impact your business.

Ensure Compliance

Finally, we ensure that your IoT systems comply with the latest industry standards and regulations. This step is vital in safeguarding against scenarios where your software is compromised. By adhering to these standards, we help maintain the trust of your customers and protect your organization from potential legal and financial repercussions. 

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Bottom Line

The importance of IoT cannot be overstated. The Internet of Things is rising today, and many businesses are actively implementing it. However, such massive dependence on a vast network of devices for personal and professional use raises the need for rigorous security testing. Only by closing security gaps and staying on guard of the safety and privacy of networks can we truly take advantage of these advanced technologies and smartly interact with the modern world.

Written by
Alona O., Сopywriter at TestFort

A copywriter with 13 years of experience in marketing and tech-related fields. Loves researching about topics and investing them in depth. Has a passion for learning new things and expanding her horizons. Her greatest joy is bringing value to readers by imparting her knowledge and insights through well-researched and compelling content.

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