Fear and Logging in the Internet of Things

Qi Wang, Wajih Ul Hassan, Adam Bates, and Carl Gunter.
25th ISOC Network and Distributed System Security Symposium (NDSS'18).
San Diego, CA, USA. February 17, 2018.
(acceptance rate=21.0%)
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As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to proliferate, diagnosing incorrect behavior within increasingly-automated homes becomes considerably more difficult. Devices and apps may be chained together in long sequences of trigger-action rules to the point that from an observable symptom (e.g., an unlocked door) it may be impossible to identify the distantly removed root cause (e.g., a malicious app). This is because, at present, IoT audit logs are siloed on individual devices, and hence cannot be used to reconstruct the causal relationships of complex workflows.

In this work, we present ProvThings, a platform-centric approach to centralized auditing in the Internet of Things. ProvThings performs efficient automated instrumentation of IoT apps and device APIs in order to generate data provenance that provides a holistic explanation of system activities, including malicious behaviors. We prototype ProvThings for the Samsung SmartThings platform, and benchmark the efficacy of our approach against a corpus of 26 IoT attacks. Through the introduction of a selective code instrumentation optimization, we demonstrate in evaluation that ProvThings imposes just 5% overhead on physical IoT devices while enabling real time querying of system behaviors, and further consider how ProvThings can be leveraged to meet the needs of a variety of stakeholders in the IoT ecosystem.