Top 10 Hardware Vulnerabilities MSPs Should Watch Out For

Engineer standing at server room

Many MSPs that work with enterprise clients are facing a relatively new challenge: The proliferation of connected devices. We’re not just talking about employees’ laptops and smartphones — IoT and industrial IoT (IIoT) such as autonomous sensors, controllers, and monitors, have increased the attack surface dramatically.

Unfortunately, many organizations overlook the vulnerabilities of these IP-connected devices. As they attempt to improve cost-efficiency with automation technologies, some companies rush into installing hardware connected to the corporate network without the proper security and vulnerability management processes in place.

This trend can become a massive headache for MSPs and MSSPs if clients implement IoT devices without understanding the security implications. You must have a robust vulnerability management program and know which top hardware vulnerabilities to watch for.

What is Vulnerability Management?

A hardware vulnerability is a weakness in a computer system that threat actors can exploit through remote or physical means. They can then introduce malicious code to breach a network or gain unauthorized access to digital assets.

Vulnerability management is the ongoing practice of identifying, classifying, prioritizing, remediating, and mitigating vulnerabilities in an environment. Vulnerability management software prioritizes and addresses risks quickly to prevent cyberattacks and data breaches.

The Top 10 Hardware Vulnerabilities MSPs Should Know About

Here are some common hardware security flaws to look for when assessing a client’s infrastructure:

1. Default passwords

Many companies leave the default passwords as-is when they install low-cost IoT devices out of the box. They then add these devices to their networks without considering the risks they may pose.

2. Unprotected local access

The proliferation of smart building hardware connected to the company network through local access (e.g. managed Ethernet or serial interface) gives bad actors opportunities to breach the network. For instance, they can disguise themselves as maintenance personnel to tamper with the devices.

3. Outdated device firmware

Most IoT device and robotics manufacturers don’t have dedicated security experts. Some firmware may be plagued by bugs and security flaws, while poor patch management compounds the risks.

4. Custom chipsets

Many corporate data centers and high-end desktops use purpose-built chipsets. The security reviews and patch releases for these solutions are often not as rigorous as mass-market products, making them easy targets for hackers.

5. Lack of encryption

Companies are connecting more operational technology devices to their networks, but many aren’t protected by the latest encryption technologies to ensure the secure storage and transfer of sensitive information. Hackers can intercept transmission or steal devices to access company data.

6. Unsupported devices

Some hardware may seem to function “just fine” even if the manufacturers no longer support the software. Such legacy equipment can become easy entry points for threat actors to enter a network without getting noticed.

7. Equipment with long intrinsic product lives

Long product refresh cycles for technologies found in high-value equipment (e.g. vehicles and critical infrastructures) increase risk exposure. Limited backward compatibility in most software can further increase the vulnerability of products with extended lifecycles.

8. Hardware and software compatibility issues

Some older hardware may not be able to support newer security software and solutions. Yet, the lengthy approval process to refresh hardware often leave many legacy devices in the field without proper protection.

9. Rapid shifts in security requirements

Hardware can take years to develop, and resolving security issues often require more than a quick patch. Meanwhile, the complex supply chain (e.g. researchers, operating system vendors, hardware manufacturers) can make it challenging to keep hardware design current with fast-evolving cybersecurity best practices.

10. Lack of a robust in-field update solution

Many smart devices (e.g. IoT sensors) operating in resource-constrained environments can’t perform automatic remote updates. The need for manual intervention is a roadblock to ensuring the timely deployment of critical security upgrades.

How to Manage Vulnerabilities: Hardware Security Solutions for MSPs

Today’s MSPs and MSSPs must stay current with the latest security practices and use advanced vulnerability management tools to protect their clients’ devices and environments.

Perform third-party due diligence on your client’s behalf to ensure they purchase hardware from reputable vendors that provide ongoing support to their products and firmware. Encrypt all devices and minimize attack surface through proper decommissioning of unused devices.

Enforce strong physical security by implementing access control in areas where hardware is housed. Provide employee training to ensure that end users don’t leave devices unattended and are aware of social engineering techniques that threat actors use to gain access to equipment.

Your vulnerability management lifecycle should also include regular hardware audits and inspections. Conduct frequent assessments and constant system monitoring with the latest vulnerability management software to isolate suspicious modules for further investigation.

Build a Solid Foundation with Ongoing Vulnerability Assessment

The foundation of any vulnerability management program is a bird’s-eye view of a client’s environment. But the proliferation of devices makes manually monitoring all access points inefficient and error-prone. As such, regular automated scans using advanced security software must be an integral part of any MSP’s and MSSP’s repertoire.

in-SOC’s SOC as a Service (SOCaaS) incorporates weekly vulnerability scanning to help you identify, prioritize, and remediate potential vulnerabilities in your clients’ environments to minimize risks. You can see what hardware is connected to the network and where potential issues may arise.

Our vulnerability management solution also includes detailed reporting to help you communicate with your clients’ leadership and technical teams. The reports come with security scores and step-by-step instructions for remediation so you can turn insights into proactive action to deliver the most value.

Learn more about our Vulnerability Management service and see how we can help you mitigate hardware vulnerabilities for your clients.

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