Is Google’s Rowhammer the Future of IoT Attacks?

Firewall lock on mainboard , concept background

In-brief: Infoworld’s Roger Grimes makes the case that Google’s recent Rowhammer exploit may be a sign of things to come as attackers look for common platforms to attack the Internet of Things. 

It’s worth heading over to InfoWorld to check out Roger Grimes latest piece on Google’s Rowhammer vulnerability – a problem with DRAM devices in which “hammering” (or repeatedly accessing) a given row of memory can cause bits in adjacent rows of memory to “flip.”

The attack is esoteric discovered and perfected by the ninjas on Google’s Project Zero and researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. (Research paper is here.)

But Grimes notes that Rowhammer shouldn’t be disregarded. In fact, Rowhammer may be an early look at a type of attack that may be more and more common in the future.

From the article:

I don’t think most defenders spend enough time focusing on hardware exploits — they should. It’s likely hardware-based exploits will become more common in the future, especially as the Internet of things becomes a reality…

The worrisome part of hardware-based exploits is that the holes are harder to plug. In general, you should consider hardware and firmware as buggy and exploitable as software, but more difficult to patch, if it can be patched at all.

In other words: Rowhammer is too esoteric and complex right now to be of much interest to profit-minded cyber criminals who are awash in tools and exploits that work perfectly well on most Internet connected systems out there.

However, in the future, the population of connected endpoints will look different from it does today. It will be much larger and much more diverse, forcing attackers to focus on commonalities between disparate IoT devices. In that way, Rowhammer it is useful – a canary in the coal mine, as Grimes says – for understanding the kinds of attack surfaces that will be interesting in the IoT environment.

Perhaps I can’t exploit your refrigerator because the limited OS it’s running doesn’t have enough code to be useful in an exploit, but bad DRAM is bad DRAM no matter where it’s used.

Check out Grimes full article via Hardware exploits may be a sign of threats to come | InfoWorld.

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