Towards System-Level Security Analysis of IoT Using Attack Graphs

Zheng Fang, Hao Fu, Tianbo Gu, Pengfei Hu, Jinyue Song, Trent Jaeger, Prasant Mohapatra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most IoT systems involve IoT devices, communication protocols, remote cloud, IoT applications, mobile apps, and the physical environment. However, existing IoT security analyses only focus on a subset of all the essential components, such as device firmware or communication protocols, and ignore IoT systems&#x0027; interactive nature, resulting in limited attack detection capabilities. In this work, we propose <sc>Iota</sc>, a logic programming-based framework to perform system-level security analysis for IoT systems. <sc>Iota</sc> generates attack graphs for IoT systems, showing all of the system resources that can be compromised and enumerating potential attack traces. In building <sc>Iota</sc>, we design novel techniques to scan IoT systems for individual vulnerabilities and further create generic exploit models for IoT vulnerabilities. We also identify and model physical dependencies between different devices as they are unique to IoT systems and are employed by adversaries to launch complicated attacks. In addition, we utilize NLP techniques to extract IoT app semantics based on app descriptions. <sc>Iota</sc> automatically translates vulnerabilities, exploits, and device dependencies to Prolog clauses and invokes MulVAL to construct attack graphs. To evaluate vulnerabilities&#x0027; system-wide impact, we propose three metrics based on the attack graph, which provide guidance on hardening IoT systems. Evaluation on 127 IoT CVEs (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) shows that <sc>Iota</sc>&#x0027;s exploit modeling module achieves over 80&#x0025; accuracy in predicting vulnerabilities&#x0027; preconditions and effects. We apply <sc>Iota</sc> to 37 synthetic smart home IoT systems based on real-world IoT apps and devices. Experimental results show that our framework is effective and highly efficient. Among 27 shortest attack traces revealed by the attack graphs, 62.8&#x0025; are not anticipated by the system administrator. It only takes 1.2 seconds to generate and analyze the attack graph for an IoT system consisting of 50 devices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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