The Internet of “Threats” Expands with Connected Devices

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With expanding Internet of Things comes expanding Threats. Here’s the latest research from Symantec on the ever-evolving threat landscape and what you as a consumer can do about it

Internet of Threats

Symantec today revealed new research demonstrating how cybercriminal networks are taking advantage of lax Internet of Things (IoT) device security to spread malware and create zombie networks, or botnets, unbeknownst to their device owners.

Cybercriminals are hijacking home networks and everyday consumer connected devices to help carry out distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on more profitable targets, usually large companies. To succeed, they need cheap bandwidth and get it by stitching together a large web of consumer devices that are easy to infect because they lack sophisticated security.

More than half of all IoT attacks originate from China and the U.S., based on the location of IP addresses to launch malware attacks. High numbers of attacks are also emanating from Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Ukraine and Vietnam. In some cases, IP addresses may be proxies used by attackers to hide their true location.

Most IoT malware targets non-PC embedded devices such as web servers, routers, modems, network attached storage (NAS) devices, closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems, and industrial control systems. Many are Internet-accessible but, because of their operating system and processing power limitations, they may not include any advanced security features.

As attackers are now highly aware of insufficient IoT security, many pre-program their malware with commonly used and default passwords, allowing them to easily hijack IoT devices. Poor security on many IoT devices makes them easy targets, and often victims may not even know they have been infected.

Additional findings from Symantec’s research include:

  • 2015 was a record year for IoT attacks, with plenty of speculation about possible hijacking of home automation and home security devices. However, attacks to date have shown that attackers tend to be less interested in the victim and the majority wish to hijack a device to add it to a botnet, most of which are used to perform DDoS attacks.
  • More than half of all IoT attacks originate from China and the U.S., based on the location of IP addresses to launch malware attacks. High numbers of attacks are also emanating from Russia, Germany, the Netherlands, Ukraine and Vietnam. In some cases, IP addresses may be proxies used by attackers to hide their true location.
  • IoT devices are a prime target, since they are designed to be plugged in and forgotten after basic set-up.
  • The most common passwords IoT malware used to attempt to log into devices was, unsurprisingly, the combination of ‘root’ and ‘admin’, indicating that default passwords are frequently never changed.
  • Attacks originating from multiple IoT platforms simultaneously may be seen more often in the future, as the amount of the embedded devices connected to the Internet rises.

How to protect yourself from IoT threats

  • Research the capabilities and security features of an IoT device before purchase
  • Perform an audit of IoT devices used on your network
  • Change the default credentials on devices. Use strong and unique passwords for device accounts and Wi-Fi networks. Don’t use common or easily guessable passwords such as “123456” or “password”
  • Use a strong encryption method when setting up Wi-Fi network access (WPA)
  • Many devices come with a variety of services enabled by default. Disable features and services that are not required
  • Disable Telnet login and use SSH where possible
  • Modify the default privacy and security settings of IoT devices according to your requirements and security policy
  • Disable or protect remote access to IoT devices when not needed
  • Use wired connections instead of wireless where possible
  • Regularly check the manufacturer’s website for firmware updates
  • Ensure that a hardware outage does not result in an unsecure state of the device
  • Be careful when buying used IoT devices, as they may have been tampered with
  • Verify if the smart features are really required or if a normal device would be sufficient
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