Understanding IoT Vulnerabilities: Hackers Can Wreak Havoc with Code Execution Flaws

When a hacker’s mission is to take control of the target system, the success of the task usually depends on the ability to run programs and scripts of the attacker’s choice. Achieving this by leveraging a vulnerability is commonly known in the security industry as arbitrary code execution, and it is one of the most dangerous consequences a weakness or chain of flaws could have.

The risk of arbitrary code execution typically occurs as a result of a memory corruption type of bug, when the process of an application is tricked into launching code that is not of its own; but it can also stem from injection type vulnerabilities like cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injection and file inclusion.

Regardless of the method the intruder uses to deploy code on the target system, the consequences are serious for the victim, since malicious code can be used for a host of nefarious purposes, from viewing and stealing folder data such as usernames and passwords, files, photos and videos, or snooping on the user’s activity. Another reason to worry is that the illegal activity could take place without the victim noticing that they were being robbed.

The hacker could also configure the computer to do his bidding this way, by turning it into a proxy to carry out cyberattacks or install a backdoor; usually, the intruder controls the machine through a command line interface that allows the sending of instructions remotely. If the code execution vulnerability can be exploited from a machine other than the one compromised, it becomes a remote code execution (RCE) flaw, meaning the attacker can access the computer from anywhere in the world.

Code is always running on a computer, and not all operations are visible to the user. Launching code without an obvious indication is what hackers aim for in their track to getting full command of a target, and this is what vulnerabilities leading to code execution offer.

As a user, you can’t do much on your own to protect against this type of attack. Waiting for an update from the manufacturer and installing it immediately as it comes out is about the only type of defense for most users. Finding out which devices on the network include code execution vulnerabilities is quite easy with a software tool like Bitdefender Home Scanner, which identifies the gadgets and informs the owner about known security holes in their current software version.

A proactive solution that relies on the traffic exchange on the network is Bitdefender BOX, a piece of hardware created to block connections to malicious servers. Because it analyzes traffic going in and out, Bitdefender BOX can protect every device on the network, no matter their type or purpose.


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