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Attacks on IoT devices booming, research finds

By Shannon Williams
Thu 24 Oct 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Cyberattacks on Internet of Things devices are booming, according to Kaspersky.

Kaspersky honeypots, networks of virtual copies of various internet connected devices and applications, have detected 105 million attacks on IoT devices coming from 276,000 unique IP addresses in the first six months of the year.

This figure is around nine times more than the number found in H1 2018, when only around 12 million attacks were spotted originating from 69,000 IP addresses. 

Despite more and more organisations smart devices, such as routers or DVR security cameras, not everybody considers them worth protecting, Kaspersky says.

Cybercriminals, however, are seeing more and more financial opportunities in exploiting such gadgets, the company says. 

“They use networks of infected smart devices to conduct DDoS attacks or as a proxy for other types of malicious actions.”

To learn more about how such attacks work and how to prevent them, Kaspersky experts set up honeypots - decoy devices used to attract the attention of cybercriminals and analyze their activities.

Based on data analysis collected from honeypots, attacks on IoT devices are usually not sophisticated, but stealth-like, as users might not even notice their devices are being exploited. 

“The malware family behind 39% of attacks - Mirai - is capable of using exploits, meaning that these botnets can slip through old, unpatched vulnerabilities to the device and control it,” says Dan Demeter, security researcher at Kaspersky.

“Another technique is password brute-forcing, which is the chosen method of the second most widespread malware family in the list – Nyadrop. Nyadrop was seen in 38.57% of attacks and often serves as a Mirai downloader. This family has been trending as one of the most active threats for a couple of years now. The third most common botnet threatening smart devices - Gafgyt with 2.12% - also uses brute-forcing,” he explains.

In addition, the researchers were able to locate the regions that became sources of infection most often in H1 2019. These are China, with 30% of all attacks taking place in this country, Brazil saw 19% and this is followed by Egypt (12%). A year ago, in H1 2018 the situation was different, with Brazil leading with 28%, China being second with 14% and Japan following with 11%.

“As people become more and more surrounded by smart devices, we are witnessing how IoT attacks are intensifying. Judging by the enlarged number of attacks and criminals’ persistency, we can say that IoT is a fruitful area for attackers that use even the most primitive methods, like guessing password and login combinations,” says Demeter.

“This is much easier than most people think: the most common combinations by far are usually “support/support”, followed by “admin/admin”, “default/default”. It’s quite easy to change the default password, so we urge everyone to take this simple step towards securing your smart devices,” he explains. 

To keep your devices safe, Kaspersky recommends users:
    •    Install updates for the firmware you use as soon as possible. Once a vulnerability is found, it can be fixed through patches within updates.
    •    Always change preinstalled passwords. Use complicated passwords that include both capital and lower case letters, numbers and symbols if it’s possible.
    •    Reboot a device as soon as you think it’s acting strangely. It might help get rid of existing malware, but this doesn’t reduce the risk of getting another infection.
    •    Keep access to IoT devices restricted by a local VPN, allowing you to access them from your "home" network, instead of publicly exposing them on the internet.

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