In today’s interconnected IT/OT/IoT infrastructure, seemingly harmless hardware devices can occasionally present hidden threats. One such overlooked device is the unmanaged switch. Here’s how these switches can threaten an organization’s cybersecurity and what you can do about it.
Unmanaged Switch: Overview
Unlike their managed counterparts, unmanaged switches lack the capability to be configured. They simply allow ethernet devices to communicate with one another, like connecting computers or network devices in a LAN. Although people view them as plug-and-play devices, they inherently carry a set of security risks.
The MITM Attack Vulnerability
An unmanaged switch can inadvertently create a separate, unmanaged link to the public internet bypassing the organization’s defense layers. When a malicious computer connects behind this switch, it can potentially establish a concealed link, giving it full access to the organization’s IT infrastructure and data.
Such setups become fertile grounds for Man-in-the-Middle (MiTM) attacks. In these attacks, the attacker secretly intercepts and possibly alters the communication between two parties who believe they are communicating directly.
MAC Spoofing and Reconnaissance
Moreover, unmanaged switches can be employed in the reconnaissance phase of MAC spoofing attacks. In MAC spoofing, attackers imitate a legitimate MAC address to bypass security measures. The absence of management features in these switches makes detecting such activities challenging.
Challenges in Unmanaged Switches Detection
The subtlety of unmanaged switches lies in their lack of invisibility to traditional cybersecurity systems. These switches lack identifiable characteristics at layer 2 and above, making them and any device behind them undetectable. For instance, an unmanaged hub switch doesn’t have an associated MAC address, making it “MAC’less” (moving target defense).
Sepio’s Solution Unique Approach
Recognizing this silent threat, Sepio’s solution uses physical layer data obtained from the physical layer of the networking infrastructure to identify MAC’less devices. By alerting the security teams about such risky configurations, organizations can take proactive measures to secure their infrastructure.
While unmanaged switches offer convenience, they come at the price of potential security vulnerabilities. Being aware of these risks and utilizing advanced detection tools like Sepio’s can help organizations close this well-known gap of security compensation control.