It really is worse than your nightmares – try Shodan

Shodan is a computer search engine. They call themselves the “world’s first search engine for Internet-connected devices”, including buildings, refrigerators, power plants, the Internet of Things (IoT), webcams, and whatever else you can imagine. Shodan isn’t new. The search engine has been online for several years now. The only new thing is the change in the URL from www.shodanhq.com to www.shodan.io.

When talking about the challenges we are facing in the IoT and in Smart Manufacturing, I commonly bring up Shodan as an example of what is visible today in this hyper-connected world. Interestingly, most CIOs and other Information Security Professionals, not to mention the rest of the world, are unaware of the fact that such a website exists.

Just the fact that there is such a search engine around is scary. It allows searching for everything that is connected to the Internet. It even allows downloading results and creating reports or using that information in other ways. Running automated attacks based on search results is just one example, even while there clearly are “good” use cases as well.

What is even scarier, though, are the results a simple query such as

“default password” country:de

will show. Just run such query. It proves that reality is worse than your worst dreams. When I ran it today, it delivered 664 results containing default passwords of a variety of systems. Even while you could argue that some of these are not current anymore, quite a number of these passwords will do their job.

The important lesson to learn from the fact that there is Shodan (and that there are others around) is to do the best job you can do on security. Understand your potential attackers, know which devices expose themselves on the Internet (and stop the ones that don’t need to from doing so), avoid standard usernames and passwords, change passwords regularly, harden your systems, etc. At least follow the standard best practices for security. And clearly, “security by obscurity” is not the best, not a good, not even an acceptable practice – it never worked and clearly will not in the age of computer search engines.

Furthermore, when providing connected things or moving towards smart manufacturing, first understand that all these connected things will be visible to the Internet. Thus, they can be attacked. Security must not be an afterthought in IoT and Smart Manufacturing, because the attackers already are waiting for you to connect more things or even entire plants.


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