Number of vulnerable IoT devices increases 136%

  • June 12, 2024
  • Steve Rogerson

The number of IoT devices with vulnerabilities expanded by 136% since 2023, according to Forescout Technologies.

The California-based company’s report found more connected devices than ever are facing cyber attacks this year as bas actors cross siloes to find entry points across the full spectrum of devices, operating systems and embedded firmware.

The Riskiest Connected Devices in 2024 is the fourth annual review of data sourced from nearly 19 million devices through its research arm, Vedere Labs, an international team dedicated to uncovering vulnerabilities and threats to critical infrastructure.

“The device has evolved from a pure asset to a reliable, sophisticated, intelligent platform for communications and services, driving a transformation in the relationship between devices, people and networks,” said Elisa Costante, vice president at Forescout. “We analyse millions of data points to publish the riskiest connected devices report to integrate important threat context into how organisations use different devices and to redefine what it means to connect and interact securely.”

The report identifies the five riskiest device types in four categories – IT, IoT, OT and IoMT.

IT devices such as network infrastructure and endpoints still account for the most vulnerabilities at 58% despite being down from 78% in 2023. Network infrastructure devices – routers and wireless access points – are often exposed online and have dangerous open ports. Endpoints such as servers, computers and hypervisors remain high-risk as entry points for phishing or because of unpatched systems and applications.

At the beginning of 2023, endpoints were riskier than network devices. At the end of 2023, there was a reversal in the number of vulnerabilities found and exploited in network infrastructure devices. Today, network equipment has become the riskiest IT device category surpassing endpoints.

IoT devices with vulnerabilities expanded by 136% since 2023. The riskiest IoT devices include the most persistent suspects – NAS, VoIP, IP cameras and printers. These are commonly exposed on the internet and have been historically targeted by attackers. This year’s analysis uncovered one IoT device making the riskiest list for the first time: network video recorders (NVRs).

NVRs sit alongside IP cameras on a network to store recorded video. Like IP cameras, they are commonly found online and have significant vulnerabilities that cyber-criminal botnets and APTs have exploited.

Industrial robots debut as an area of emerging risk for OT devices. The riskiest OT devices include the critical and insecure-by-design PLCs and DCSs. It also consists of the UPSs in many data centres with default credentials, and the ubiquitous, often invisible, building automation systems.

Industrial robots make the list for the first time. Often used in logistics and military applications, robots are growing in use in industries such as electronics and automotive manufacturing. Many robots share the same security problems as other OT equipment, including outdated software, default credentials and lax security postures.

Healthcare is no longer the industry with the riskiest devices, but IT equipment for medication dispensing systems is the second-most exposed IoMT device type.

Just one year after the 2023 analysis highlighted the high level of device risk within the healthcare industry, the research indicates that many organisations are closing ports by replacing remote management of devices from Telnet to SSH. Healthcare marked the highest decrease in open ports from 10% in 2023 to just 4% this year. Healthcare also had the highest decline in RDP from 15% to just 6%.

Despite this good news, IoMT devices – the IT equipment used for healthcare such as medical information systems and workstations – continue to pose a risk for the industry, especially in medication dispensing systems. Medication dispensers have been known to be vulnerable for almost a decade, yet they represent the sixth most vulnerable device type overall and the second most in the category.

“Modern risk and exposure management must include devices in every category, to identify, prioritise and reduce risk across the whole organisation,” said Costante. “Beyond risk assessment, risk mitigation should use automated controls that don’t rely only on security agents and also apply to the whole enterprise instead of silos like the IT network, the OT network or specific types of IoT devices.”

Among the immediate steps organisations can take to reduce device risk are:

  • Upgrade, replace or isolate OT and IoMT devices running legacy operating systems known to have critical vulnerabilities.
  • Implement automated device compliance verification and enforcement to ensure non-compliant devices cannot connect to the network.
  • Improve network security efforts, including segmentation, to isolate common, exposed devices such as IP cameras and dangerous open ports such as Telnet.

Understanding the perceptions of the riskiest devices is vital to define a roadmap for the key elements of cyber-defence to reduce risk.

The report can be found at