Guardians of IoT: Fortifying the financial sector in the age of IoT

Ron Edgerson headshot jpeg

Ron Edgerson

Senior Consultant, Application Security

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The Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionized the financial industry, but its associated security vulnerabilities and risks must be addressed to protect sensitive data.

Key takeaways:

  • Staying informed and proactive with security measures is key to protecting the financial ecosystem as it evolves with smart point-of-sale (POS) systems and telematics devices.
  • Security vulnerabilities in smart POS systems arise from data acquisition, input, and initiation processes, such as skimming attacks and unsecured ports.
  • Insurance telematics devices collect and analyze metrics to assess insurance premiums but are vulnerable to data tampering, physical access attacks, RFID exploitation, and supply chain tampering.
  • Financial institutions should employ regular software updates, chip-and-PIN technology, secure receipt management practices, encryption protocols and physical security measures to mitigate the risks posed by IoT devices.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has brought a wave of innovation to the financial industry, with both smart point-of- sale (POS) systems and insurance telematics devices leading the way. These technologies have significantly enhanced user experiences and operational efficiency. As we embrace the convenience of IoT in finance, however, we must also address the associated vulnerabilities in both input and output processes.

In this blog, we embark on an exploration of the intricate challenges posed by smart POS and telematics devices within the ever-evolving financial landscape. Our objective is to dissect these challenges, examine their multifaceted nature, and, ultimately, offer an in-depth analysis of strategic approaches and best practices that effectively mitigate these risks.

Exploring security vulnerabilities in smart POS systems

Smart POS devices are innovative additions to the financial technology landscape that have not only enhanced the overall payment experience for customers but have greatly streamlined business transactions, elevating efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Input vulnerabilities in smart POS devices

While there are several vectors, smart POS systems largely inherit their input vulnerabilities from weaknesses in data acquisition, input, and initiation processes. These vulnerabilities are associated with the critical stage of data collection, encompassing the entry and initiation of transaction-related information, demanding a nuanced understanding and proactive approach to safeguarding the financial ecosystem.

Examples include:

  1. Skimming attacks: Criminals often employ skimming devices to capture payment card information from unsuspecting customers. These devices are typically attached to POS card readers, intercepting card data during transactions.
  2. Supply chain attacks: Attackers might tamper with the POS device during the supply chain process, introducing hardware-level vulnerabilities before the device even reaches the end-user.
  3. Unsecured ports: Open or unprotected hardware ports can be exploited for unauthorized access or data manipulation.
  4. Insecure peripherals: Vulnerabilities in attached hardware peripherals, such as barcode scanners, can be exploited to compromise the entire POS system.
  5. Physical access: If not physically secured, the POS device can be tampered with or stolen, potentially leading to security breaches.

Output vulnerabilities in smart POS Devices

Output vulnerabilities in smart POS systems include a variety of concerns as data is stored, presented, or transmitted throughout the devices and to adjacent systems. These vulnerabilities necessitate a comprehensive understanding of the challenges involved and the implementation of proactive measures to ensure the security, accuracy, and confidentiality of financial information.

Examples include:

  1. Data leakage: Data transmitted from smart POS devices to a central server can be intercepted during transmission, leading to data breaches exposing sensitive customer information.
  2. Printer vulnerabilities: POS receipt printers may expose sensitive information, including customer names and card details, if not securely configured, presenting a hardware-related vulnerability.
  3. Third-party payment data interception: Data sent to external payment processors or financial institutions can be intercepted during transmission, compromising the confidentiality and integrity of the transaction and associated financial data.
  4. Cash dispensing errors: Malfunctioning or hacked POS devices may dispense incorrect amounts of cash, leading to financial discrepancies and customer disputes.
  5. Remote access weaknesses: If the POS device offers remote access, it may become a target for cyberattacks, which can result in unauthorized access and data breaches.

Uncovering security challenges in telematics devices

Input vulnerabilities in insurance telematics devices

Telematics devices, frequently employed in usage-based insurance programs, serve as data-gathering mechanisms, such as when installed within vehicles. These devices meticulously collect and analyze various metrics and patterns to assess and calculate insurance premiums in a dynamic and personalized manner, such as the amount of exercise someone is getting or how someone operates machinery.

Examples include:

  1. Data tampering: One of the primary concerns is data tampering. Attackers may attempt to manipulate the data recorded by these devices. For instance, they could alter the driving records to receive lower insurance premiums.
  2. Physical access: If telematics devices are not adequately secured, they may be tampered with directly, to either disable them or alter their ability to properly function.
  3. IoT network attacks: Telematics devices connected to the internet are susceptible to network-based attacks, enabling attackers to intercept or disrupt the communication between the device and the insurance company's server.
  4. RFID attacks: If RFID technology is used, attacks targeting RFID components can result in unauthorized data collection and manipulation.
  5. Supply chain attacks: Malicious actors may tamper with the device during the supply chain process, inserting hardware-level vulnerabilities before it reaches the end-user.

Output vulnerabilities in insurance telematics devices

Output vulnerabilities within telematics devices include a spectrum of security concerns, primarily focused on the potential risks and challenges that manifest as data is transmitted or presented. These vulnerabilities are keenly tied to data-handling processes, both during transmission and when the information is made accessible or visible, and require diligent attention and proactive measures to ensure the safety and integrity of sensitive information.

Examples include:

  1. Data breaches: Data transmitted from telematics devices to insurance companies is susceptible to interception or compromise during transmission, leading to unauthorized access of sensitive information, such as user driving behavior and location data.
  2. Misinterpretation of data: If data is not presented clearly or accurately to insurers or customers, it may lead to incorrect insurance assessments, premiums, or claims decisions.
  3. Information disclosure: Inadequate data handling may inadvertently expose sensitive data when displaying or transmitting said data.
  4. Insecure Storage: Hardware vulnerabilities related to data storage can result in unauthorized access to data stored on the device's internal storage, such as driving behavior records and customer details.
  5. Point-of-Interaction vulnerabilities: Hardware weaknesses at the point of interaction, where data is captured from the vehicle's sensors, can result in data exposure or tampering.

Mitigating IoT security risks:

To enhance the security of IoT-enabled smart POS, telematics devices, financial institutions should consider the following measures:

  1. Regular software updates: Ensure that software is promptly and routinely updated to remediate any known vulnerabilities.
  2. Chip-and-PIN technology: Encourage the use of chip-and-PIN technology, which provides an added layer of security and minimizes the risk of skimming attacks.
  3. Secure receipt management: Implement secure receipt management practices, such as truncating card numbers and minimizing the amount of sensitive information printed on receipts.
  4. Data encryption: Implement strong encryption protocols to secure data both during transmission and while at rest, reducing the impact should unauthorized parties gain access to the encrypted data.
  5. Physical security: Physically secure devices, making them tamper-evident, through robust enclosures and security tags that hamper and make obvious any tampering or unauthorized access.
  6. Access controls: Implement stringent access controls, including authentication mechanisms, to prevent unauthorized access to the devices.
  7. Data verification: Use trusted data sources and implement data verification mechanisms to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the data collected.
  8. Security training: Train staff to recognize and report suspicious activities. Educate employees about the risks of phishing attacks and the importance of strong password management.

The integration of IoT devices in the financial industry has undoubtedly enhanced the user experience and operational efficiency but poses a risk to the customer and financial sector. The security challenges associated with smart POS, and telematics devices are a stark reminder of the importance of safeguarding sensitive financial data.

By addressing input and output vulnerabilities and adopting robust security practices, we can continue to embrace IoT's advantages while mitigating risks. As the financial IoT landscape continues to evolve, staying vigilant and staying updated with the latest security measures is key to maintaining trust in this dynamic sector.