Internet of Things Attack – From a Fridge

Tuesday, January 21, 2014 @ 02:01 PM gHale

It was an Internet of Things (IoT)-based cyber attack involving conventional household “smart” appliances like TVs, routers, multimedia centers – and a refrigerator.

The global attack campaign involved more than 750,000 malicious email communications coming from more than 100,000 compromised everyday consumer gadgets like home-networking routers, connected multimedia centers, smart TVs and, yes, one refrigerator, said researchers at security-as-a-service provider Proofpoint.

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“Bot-nets are already a major security concern and the emergence of thingbots may make the situation much worse” said David Knight, general manager of Proofpoint’s Information Security division.

“Many of these devices are poorly protected at best and consumers have virtually no way to detect or fix infections when they do occur,” Knight said. “Enterprises may find distributed attacks increasing as more and more of these devices come on-line and attackers find additional ways to exploit them.”

The attack analyzed by Proofpoint launched between December 23, 2013 and January 6, 2014. During this period, around 100,000 malicious emails went out each day, aimed at individuals and organizations.

While IT experts have long predicted security risks associated with the rapidly proliferating IoT, this is the first time the industry has reported actual proof of such a cyber attack involving appliances. IoT includes every device connected to the Internet — from home automation products including smart thermostats, security cameras, refrigerators, microwaves, home entertainment devices like TVs, gaming consoles to smart retail shelves that know when they need replenishing and industrial machinery – and the number of IoT devices is growing enormously.

IDC predicts that more than 200 billion things will connect via the Internet by 2020. But IoT devices are typically not protected by the anti-spam and anti-virus infrastructures available to organizations and individual consumers, nor are they routinely monitored by dedicated IT teams or alerting software to receive patches to address new security issues as they arise.

“The ‘Internet of Things’ holds great promise for enabling control of all of the gadgets that we use on a daily basis. It also holds great promise for cybercriminals who can use our homes’ routers, televisions, refrigerators and other Internet-connected devices to launch large and distributed attacks”, said Michael Osterman, principal analyst at Osterman Research.

“Internet-enabled devices represent an enormous threat because they are easy to penetrate, consumers have little incentive to make them more secure, the rapidly growing number of devices can send malicious content almost undetected, few vendors are taking steps to protect against this threat, and the existing security model simply won’t work to solve the problem,” he said.

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