A simple IoT botnet cripples internet, raises questions about cyber security

Imagine a scenario where world’s major websites like Facebook, Twitter, Netflix have suddenly crashed and no user is able to access any of these websites. Well, 21st October 2016 witnessed such a scenario in the United States. Dyn, an Internet infrastructure company which is a provider of critical technology services to some of the major websites was attached by the cyber criminals. As a result some of the Internet’s top destinations, Twitter, Reddit, Spotify, Esty, Box, Wix Customer Sites Squarespace Customer Sites, Shopify, SoundCloud, Github, Airbnb, Reddit, Freshbooks and Heroku came crippling down creating problems for the internet users from accessing these websites.

untitledThis internet attack which was on a massive scale led to network congestion for a huge number of websites who were having Dyn as their domain registration services provider. And the impact of this attack was so gigantic that the Department of Homeland security in the United States is currently investigating into this matter.  

But what exactly happened?

What was the cause behind this situation? Dyn’s functioning was impacted by Mirai-based IoT botnet. Mirai, a simple botnet, scans the Internet for IoT systems protected by factory default or hard-coded usernames and passwords. Then Mirai enlists the devices in attacks that throw junk traffic at an online target till the time it is unable to accommodate any legitimate visitors or users. Also this simple botnet can break into a varied range of IoT devices ranging from CCTV cameras to DVRs to home networking equipment converting them into ‘bots’.

This attack was carried out by hacked “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices, such as CCTV video cameras and digital video recorders. The malware used vulnerable technology to launch a Distributed Denial of Service attack and creating a scenario where Dyn was overflowing with traffic leading to slow Internet speeds and offline sites.

 

Is the Future safe?

 If a simple botnet like Mirai can impact such major websites, then this means that any IoT device like smart home gadgets or any other connected device could be impacted by such botnets. Basically, anything with a weak login credential can become a target to such botnets bringing it down completely. And these botnets have the ability to convert these connected devices into bots which can be used to bump networks and servers, leading to slow speeds or even shutdowns. Also the source code for Mirai being released publicly on HackForms is a worrisome situation as it open the door for such future botnet attacks.

It is situations like this that bring out the reality. IoT is on its growth path and everyone seems to be only focusing on the benefits that IoT will bring to our lives, our business but security is an important aspect that too needs attention. You cannot live on the edge with these IoT devices where you are secure only till the next such attack happens.

The IoT industry will have to come together to set the parameters of cyber security/ data security in the near future. A global effort needs to be taken to in this direction to protect the future of IoT. IoT is the next frontier and every nation is looking forward to be connected with Internet of Things, hence right steps in the direction of security will lead to a brighter future for the IoT industry and its consumers.

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Manisha Salecha

Manisha is a Senior Content Analyst with Analytics India Magazine. Apart from writing & editing articles and taking interviews, she is also responsible for covering analytics news, and handling social media for AIM.