Vulnerability Management for IoT Developers: 5 Key Capabilities

Vulnerability Management for IoT Developers: 5 Key Capabilities

In 2023, IoT devices connected to home networks were attacked an average of eight times per day. If you manage massive IoT deployments, it’s up to you to make sure these attacks don’t succeed.

Vulnerability management is a huge part of this security effort. No connected device is 100 percent impenetrable, so understanding where your system is vulnerable—and acting quickly to remove these exposures—is the only way to keep users safe.

The trouble is, of course, that the IoT security ecosystem is not a fixed environment. Attackers innovate. Updates roll out. Zero-day vulnerabilities—security flaws you don’t know about—arise unexpectedly.

If you produce IoT devices, then, you need to manage these vulnerabilities across the whole product lifecycle. The tool you need to do this effectively is called a vulnerability management platform (VMP), also known as a product security lifecycle management platform.

Such a platform works by scanning device firmware to discover flaws. It also monitors authoritative databases of new and existing vulnerabilities, identifying them within your technology stack. Finally, a VMP provides the detailed reporting and collaboration tools you need to act quickly, securing your systems before attackers can breach them.

But to really provide effective IoT security, your VMP must provide some advanced features beyond the basics. Here are five essential abilities to look for in any suite of vulnerability management software designed for IoT.

5 Features of a Strong Vulnerability Management Platform

A VMP simplifies your vulnerability management processes. It automates security scans, keeps track of common exposures, and monitors your systems for you. 

To get the strongest security benefits, look for a VMP that can help you: 

1. Generate a software bill of materials (SBOM)

Today’s IoT technology stacks are modular. They incorporate dozens of third-party components, from communication libraries (that support technologies like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi) to libraries implementing data protocols (like HTTP, MQTT, etc.), commonly required to interact with cloud services. 

Security vulnerabilities may pop up in any one of these components, so it’s not enough to comb through your own device firmware on a regular basis. You also need to discover exposures hidden in software that other vendors maintain. 

That starts by only working with vendors that reliably deliver security updates—on a regular basis, in an automated fashion, and complete with user notifications. The next step is to maintain awareness of all the components that exist within your tech stack.

Such a list of components is called a software bill of materials (SBOM). Look for a VMP that can build one for you.  

For most IoT systems, it’s virtually impossible to manually create a software bill of materials. There are just too many moving parts. Choose a security platform that automates SBOM generation—so you can keep components up to date and track issues if they arise. 

2. Sort through common vulnerabilities to identify those that affect your systems

As we mentioned, your VMP should keep track of common exposures. It does this by tapping into (at least) two powerful databases: 

  • The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) database is an updated list of common security flaws. It’s maintained by national security company MITRE, under sponsorship from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). 
  • The National Vulnerability Database (NVD), another huge source of IT security data, which is run by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology and synchronized with the MITRE database. 

These databases contain hundreds of thousands of records, with dozens of new vulnerabilities showing up every day. That’s why you need a good VMP; your security platform should be able to display only the items that affect your deployment. 

This is where your SBOM comes in handy. Your VMP can cross-reference your up-to-date asset inventory with these security databases, providing a daily list of vulnerabilities to fix. 

3. Filter, group, and mark CVEs 

Even with CVE items limited by your SBOM, you might end up with long lists of potential security flaws. You need tools that allow you to filter, tag, and organize these items—and even apply your findings to future products.

These capabilities help you organize your vulnerability management efforts, and can save a lot of time when planning security for your next release. 

4. Know exactly when issues show up

Choose a VMP that offers alerts and notifications for new security issues. Again, new vulnerabilities show up on the NVD and CVE database at the rate of dozens per day. The sheer volume of data makes it nearly impossible to review vulnerabilities manually. 

Your VMP can automate this process, checking your asset inventory or SBOM to alert security staff only for issues that might affect your products. With the right VMP, these alerts can also tell you which of your products or components are affected, so you can act as quickly as possible.

5. Integrate vulnerability management into broader work processes

A security platform won’t do you any good if you don’t use it. Look for easy exporting for reports, live collaboration features, and a simple user interface to make sure your VMP fits well within your existing workflow. 
It may not be possible to eliminate security threats entirely, but by choosing a security platform built specifically for IoT, you can manage that risk responsibly. Tools like VMPs can help you stay vigilant and proactive, protecting your customers and your brand across the entire device lifespan. It’s an easy choice to make.

Automated firmware analysis platform to identify known and 0-day vulnerabilities and to support your compliance needs.
Automated firmware analysis platform to identify known and 0-day vulnerabilities and to support your compliance needs.