OWASP Embedded Application Security

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OWASP Embedded Application Security Project

Every year the prevalent use of embedded software within enterprise and consumer devices continues to rise exponentially. With widespread publicity of the Internet of Things (IoT), more and more devices are becoming network connected evidencing how essential it is to create secure coding guidelines for embedded software. Embedded Application Security is often not a high priority for embedded developers when they are producing devices such as routers, managed switches, medical devices, Industrial Control Systems (ICS), VoIP phones, IoT devices, and ATM Kiosks due to other challenges outside of development. Other challenges developers face may include, but are not limited to, the Original Design Manufacturer (ODM) supply chain, limited memory, a small stack, and the challenge of pushing firmware updates securely to an endpoint. The goals of this project are to create a list of best practices, provide practical guidance to embedded developers, and to draw on the existing OWASP resources that can bring application security expertise to the embedded world. It is important to note, each of the items and guidance points listed below are longstanding within software security. This document purely tailors issues that OWASP has previously provided guidance upon (e.g. OWASP Top 10, Mobile Top 10, etc.) to the embedded community. Given the prevalence of Linux kernels utilized within embedded devices, all code examples are geared towards a POSIX environment but the principles are designed to be platform agnostic.

Mailing List / Group Communication

Embedded Sec Mailing List Please join our OWASP Slack channel; look for the #embeddedappsec

Project Leaders

Aaron Guzman @
Alex Lafrenz @

Related Projects

News and Events

Conferences that project leaders will be speaking at based upon the Embedded Application Security Project

  • [07 April 2017] Sam Houston University (SHACS) Conference
  • [07 April 2017] BSides Edinburgh
  • [11 May 2017] AppSec EU
  • [19 May 2017] HackMiami
  • [23-26 May 2017] AusCERT
  • [02 June 2017] SecurityFest

Releases

Click here for version 1
PDF Version

Version 1.5 scheduled for Fall 2017

Classifications

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Click here to find additional details pertaining to each of the top ten categories listed below

E1 – Buffer and Stack Overflow Protection

Prevent the use of known dangerous functions and APIs in effort to protect against memory-corruption vulnerabilities within firmware. (e.g. Use of unsafe C functions - strcat, strcpy, sprintf, scanf) Memory-corruption vulnerabilities, such as buffer overflows, can consist of overflowing the stack (Stack overflow) or overflowing the heap (Heap overflow). For simplicity purposes, this document does not distinguish between these two types of vulnerabilities. In the event a buffer overflow has been detected and exploited by an attacker, the instruction pointer register is overwritten to execute the arbitrary malicious code provided by the attacker.

E2 – Injection Prevention

Ensure all untrusted data and user input is validated, sanitized, and/or outputs encoded to prevent unintended system execution. There are various injection attacks within application security such as operating system (OS) command injection, cross-site scripting (E.g. JavaScript injection), SQL injection, and others such as XPath injection. However, the most prevalent of the injection attacks within embedded software pertain to OS command injection; when an application accepts untrusted/insecure input and passes it to external applications (either as the application name itself or arguments) without validation or proper escaping.

E3 – Firmware Updates and Cryptographic Signatures

Ensure robust update mechanisms utilize cryptographically signed firmware images upon download and when applicable, for updating functions pertaining to third party software. Cryptographic signature allows for verification that files have not been modified or otherwise tampered with since the developer created and signed them. The signing and verification process uses public-key cryptography and it is difficult to forge a digital signature (e.g. PGP signature) without first gaining access to the private key. In the event a private key is compromised, developers of the software must revoke the compromised key and will need to re-sign all previous firmware releases with the new key.

E4 – Securing Sensitive Information

Do not hardcode secrets such as passwords, usernames, tokens, private keys or similar variants into firmware release images. This also includes the storage of sensitive data that is written to disk. If hardware security element (SE) or Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) is available, it is recommended to utilize such features for storing sensitive data. Otherwise, use of strong cryptography should be evaluated to protect the data. If possible, all sensitive data in clear-text should be ephemeral by nature and reside in a volatile memory only.

E5 – Identity Management

User accounts within an embedded device should not be static in nature. Features that allow separation of user accounts for internal web management, internal console access, as well as remote web management and remote console access should be available to prevent automated malicious attacks.

E6 – Embedded Framework and C-Based Hardening

Limit BusyBox, embedded frameworks, and toolchains to only those libraries and functions being used when configuring firmware builds. Embedded Linux build systems such as Buildroot, Yocto and others typically perform this task. Removal of known insecure libraries and protocols such as Telnet not only minimize attack entry points in firmware builds, but also provide a secure-by-design approach to building software in efforts to thwart potential security threats.

E7 – Usage of Debug Code and Interfaces

It is important to ensure all unnecessary pre-production build code, as well as dead and unused code, has been removed prior to firmware release to all market segments. This includes but is not limited to potential backdoor code and root privilege accounts that may have been left by parties such as Original Design Manufacturers (ODM) and Third-Party contractors. Typically this falls in scope for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) to perform via reverse engineering of binaries. This should also require ODMs to sign Master Service Agreements (MSA) insuring that either no backdoor code is included and that all code has been reviewed for software security vulnerabilities holding all Third-Party developers accountable for devices that are mass deployed into the market.

E8 – Transport Layer Security

Ensure all methods of communication are utilizing industry standard encryption configurations for TLS. The use of TLS ensures that all data remains confidential and untampered with while in transit. Utilize free certificate authority services such as Let’s Encrypt if the embedded device utilizes domain names.

E9 – Data collection Usage and Storage - Privacy

It is critical to limit the collection, storage, and sharing of both personally identifiable information (PII) as well as sensitive personal information (SPI). Leaked information such as Social Security Numbers can lead to customers being compromised which could have legal repercussions for manufacturers. If information of this nature must be gathered, it is important to follow the concepts of Privacy-by-Design.

E10 – Third Party Code and Components

Following setup of the toolchain, it is important to ensure that the kernel, software packages, and third party libraries are updated to protect against publicly known vulnerabilities. Software such as Rompager or embedded build tools such as Buildroot should be checked against vulnerability databases as well as their ChangeLogs to determine when and if an update is needed. It is important to note this process should be tested by developers and/or QA teams prior to release builds as updates to embedded systems can cause issues with the operations of those systems. Embedded projects should maintain a “Bill of Materials” of the third party and open source software included in its firmware images. This Bill of Materials should be checked to confirm that none of the third party software included has any unpatched vulnerabilities. Up to date vulnerability information may be found through the National Vulnerability Database or Open Hub.

Several solutions exist for cataloging and auditing third party software: Retirejs for Javascript projects (free) Black Duck (paid) Package Managers (free) Buildroot (free)

2017-18 Roadmap

  • Create a Top 10 Embedded Application Security list.
    • Linux Embedded
    • RTOS
    • Windows
      • IoT Core
      • Windows Embedded
  • Expand on embedded best practices outside of the proposed top 10
  • Participate in PR-related activities to involve the embedded community at large.
  • Contribute to ASVS with embedded security principles

Feel free to join the mailing list and contact the Project leaders if you feel you can contribute.