How to Conduct IoT Penetration Testing

How to Conduct IoT Penetration Testing

IoT Penetration Testing is the need of time as modern society is completely surrounded and equipped with electronic gadgets, and as time goes on, our reliability on these devices will only grow. For example, we have switched to electronic fingerprint locks and have voice-activated fans, lighting, and showers. Therefore, devices that help us live better lives are stored in our private information. However, since all devices are moving towards IoT (Internet of Things), which simply refers to network interconnected devices that can share and communicate information over the internet.

Although IoT development technology has the potential to improve our quality of life, it also presents new difficulties, particularly in the areas of security and privacy.

What is IoT Security?

With the emergence of 5G technology and the recent surge in IoT technology trends, IoT security is very essential in keeping our IoT devices from being attacked by an external malicious source, resulting in securing our privacy, information, and accessibility of the devices.

For example, if you have a smart home device like a CCTV camera that is connected to the internet, a hacker can easily access the camera and spy on your home. Or, if you have a wearable device that tracks your fitness data, a hacker could also potentially access that data and use it for malicious purposes.

This shows that IoT security is very essential to safeguard our privacy and security in an ever-increasing connected world.

What is IoT Penetration Testing?

IoT Pen Testing is a type of IoT security testing, performed by simulating attacks on real IoT devices in a network to pinpoint the security gaps and systems vulnerabilities to protect from a potential cyberattack. It includes some techniques such as an attempt to gain unauthorized access, exploitation of software vulnerabilities, and launching attacks such as denial-of-service (DoS) attacks.

Most Critical IoT Security Risks (IoT Top 10)

There are frameworks available for IoT devices security assessment that is specifically designed to provide a prioritized list of the most critical security breaches risks that are commonly found in IoT devices and their networks. Frameworks like these IoT Top 10 and OWASP Top 10 provide all organizations with the list in order to better prepare themselves for any such potential attacks. The Only difference between IoT Top 10 and OWASP Top 10 is the list of risks affecting different types of systems. OWASP Top 10 is more related to the security risks to the web applications, whereas, IoT Top 10 is related to security hazards to IoT devices. This includes the following security risks:
1) Insecure Web Interface:
2) Insufficient Authentication
3) Insecure Network Services
4) Lack of Secure Update Mechanisms
5) Insufficient Privacy Protection
6) Insecure Data Transfer and Storage
7) Lack of Device Management
8) Insecure Default Settings
9) Lack of Physical Hardening
10) Inadequate Security Configuration Options

IoT Penetration Testing Methodology?

• Reconnaissance:

Reconnaissance is a process of scanning the entire network of IoT devices that are potential targets of cyber-attacks and trying to understand the possible limitations and settings. There are various tools for scanning the network, some of which are Nmap and Shodan.

• Attack Surface Mapping:

After scanning the complete target system, pen testers identify all the entry and exit points and map out the whole architecture of the system from a pen tester’s point of view, so that it can better evaluate it as an attacker. It is the most important step in IoT pen testing, where the pen testers identify the most susceptible entry point and label it the highest priority item to be dealt with. And in cases where the most difficult entry point appears, it is categorized as low priority.

• Vulnerability Assessment by Exploitation:

In this step, the pen testers try to attack and exploit all the possible entry points determined in the previous step through different methods to try jailbreaking the IoT device. There are various methods through which a hacker can attack. Some of them are:
1) Exploitation through (Inter-Integrated-Circuit) and (Serial Peripheral Interface) protocols that are mostly used in IoT device communication.
2) Attackers might use vulnerabilities in the JTAG interface, which is generally used for debugging and testing hardware equipment.
3) Attacker might also access the firmware and perform reverse engineering on the device, identify the weaknesses in design, and gain access and control over the system.

• Post-Exploitation:

Post Exploitation is a crucial step of IoT Penetration Testing because it requires the maintenance of access and control over the device after exploitation and demonstration of persistence and collecting private data for exfiltration. The common techniques used for the post-exploitation phase of testing are:
1) By gaining administrative rights of the target device.
2) By installing a backdoor on the IoT device to keep persistent control
3) By extracting login credentials and system logs
4) By making the affected device a pivotal node in a network

• Reporting & Documentation:

Reporting and documentation are the final steps in IoT pen testing, as it gives a thorough explanation of the results and correction suggestions. The report needs to be easy to understand, decode, and be useful. The documentation must include a complete picture, as to what were the testing methods, findings, suggestions, tools employed, and all the vulnerabilities.

The Benefits of Penetration Testing for IoT?

Pen testing not only discourages criminals from an offense and makes the IoT network of connected devices more robust but also gives businesses a financial boost as well. The more robust IoT technology is, the less money organizations will be spent on ransomware attacks or outside contractors to assist in protecting against intense web scraping by cybercriminals.
Furthermore, the safer these devices become, the higher number of individuals, industries, and systems that can benefit from the automation, resulting in an ever-resilient and efficient system, resulting in increased overall productivity.


In conclusion, the IoT Penetration testing method is an important security measure that must only be performed by registered ethical hackers, so that the company’s reputation does not get tarnished. IoT Pen Testing helps detect security lapses that a criminal would easily identify. It is similar to the case where you hire a burglar to attempt a burglar at your own house so that a burglar would find the leaks and openings, therefore giving you an insight from a burglar’s perspective. Similarly, IoT Penetration testing helps you identify vulnerabilities from a cyber-criminal viewpoint so that you can fix those leaks and prevent potential future attacks.