IoT Lifecycle attacks – lessons learned from Flash in VDI/Cloud

One of the pain points in VDI for many years has been Flash Redirection. Flash is a product that it’s makers Adobe seem to have been effectively de-investing in for years. With redirection there is both server and client software. Adobe dropped development for Linux clients many years ago, then surprisingly resurrected it late last year (presumably after customer pressure). Adobe have since said they will kill the Flash player on all platforms in 2020.

Flash was plagued by security issues and compatibility issues (client versions that wouldn’t work with certain server versions). In a cloud/VDI environment the end-points and cloud/data center are often maintained by different teams or even companies. This is exactly the same challenge that the internet of things faces. A user’s smart lightbulb/washing machine is bought with a certain version of firmware, OEM software etc. and how it is maintained is a challenge.

It’s impossible for vendors to develop products that can predict the architecture of future security attacks and patches are frequent. Flash incompatibility often led to VDI users using registry hacks to disable the version matching between client and server software, simply to keep their applications working. When Linux Flash clients were discontinued, it left users unsupported as Adobe no longer developed the code and VDI vendors were unable to support closed source Adobe code.

The Flash Challenges for The Internet of Things

  • Customers need commitments from OEMs and software vendors for support matrices, how long a product will be updated/maintained.
  • IoT vendors need to implement version checking to protect end-clients/devices being downgraded to vulnerable versions of firm/software and life-cycle attacks.
  • In the same way that VDI can manage/patch end-points, vendors will need to implement ways to manage IoT end-points
  • What happens to a smart device if the vendor drops support / goes out of business. Is the consumer left with an expensive brick. Can it even be used safely?

There was a recent article in the Washington Post on Whirlpool’s lack of success with a connected washing machine, it comes with an app to allow you to “allocate laundry tasks to family members” and share “stain-removing tips with other users”. With the uptake low, it raises the question how long will OEMs maintain and services like applications. Many consumer devices such as washing machines are expect to last 5+ years. Again, this is a challenge VDI/Cloud has largely solved for thin-clients, devices with long 5-10 year refresh cycles.

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