Forensics and the Internet of Things (IoT)

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Brian Prendergast

Senior Consultant, Cyber Risk Advisory - Forensics, Coalfire

Today, the Internet of Things (IoT) means that billions of devices are connected to the Internet. People and organizations are looking to connect devices more frequently for automation, simplification, and the feature advantages the IoT delivers. Items such as smoke detectors, glasses, watches, ovens, refrigerators, garage doors, and more are connecting to the Internet, with most of the associated data saved to the Cloud. When it comes to digital forensics, data is the key. Traditional digital forensics dealt with computers and cell phones in physical locations. We traditionally focused on physical media like hard drives. However, in today’s world of the IoT, data is often highly distributed between devices, clouds, and vendors. This presents forensic examiners with both challenges and unique opportunities to extend our capabilities and methodologies to new environments and data locations.

Determining which devices are collecting and saving data to which cloud requires resourcefulness, as efficiently conducting investigations is key. Understanding that the value of metadata is attracting hackers employing new techniques from new vectors necessitates creative thinking combined with proper due diligence in order to preserve evidence. This has resulted in numerous tool improvements and methodologies for collecting evidence remotely from the Cloud. Today, the Cloud presents the ability to collect virtual images remotely for investigation, allowing forensic investigators to more rapidly investigate a potential breach or compromise. This speeds time to identification of a compromise, enables more effective containment, and more efficient remediation.

The world of IoT has brought us many benefits: We are able to see who and when a package has been delivered to our homes; our cars can tell us when they need service by communicating with the dealer; our spouses can see how many steps we’ve completed on our daily fitness goals; and we can even pre-heat the oven from the comfort of an airplane. This is wonderful—but it represents a new avenue for hackers to collect private information. As a result, forensics is keeping pace, helping to identify compromises, and providing valuable root cause analysis to manufacturers and suppliers of IoT products and services, which improves the security and protection of the public’s private data.