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Threats to internet-connected devices multiply

Due to the lack of security in many of internet-connected ‘internet of things’ devices, threats and the number of attacks continue to increase, but still rely on well-known security weaknesses, such as unpatched software and weak passwords, according to a cyber security firm.

The report, using data collected and analysed by F-Secure Labs, highlights that threats targeting internet-connected devices are beginning to multiply more rapidly. The number of IoT threats observed by the cyber firm doubled in 2018, from 19 to 38 in a year. But many of these threats still use predictable, known techniques to compromise devices. Threats targeting weak/default credentials, unpatched vulnerabilities, or both, made up 87pc of observed threats, said the firm.

F-Secure Operator Consultant Tom Gaffney says that larger device vendors are paying more attention to security, but there’s a lot of devices from many manufacturers that don’t offer consumers much in the way of security or privacy.

Gaffney says: “The big guys like Google and Amazon have made strides in their smart home products with the help of massive backing and ethical hackers like our own Mark Barnes, who executed the first proof of concept for a hack of an Echo in 2017. But for years manufacturers have been releasing products without giving much thought to security, so there’s a lot of ‘smart’ devices out there vulnerable to relatively simple attacks.”

IoT threats were rarely encountered before 2014, the report says. But that changed around the time the source code for Gafgyt – a threat that targeted a variety of IoT devices, including BusyBox devices, closed-circuit television (CCTV) devices and many digital video recorders (DVRs) – was released. In October 2016, Mirai, which was developed from Gafgyt’s code, became the first IoT malware to achieve global infamy when its massive botnet was used to launch a distributed denial-of-service attack. About six-tenths, 59 percent of attack traffic detected by F-Secure’s honeypot servers in 2018 targeted exposed telnet ports, with Mirai’s attempts to spread as the main culprit behind the attacks.

According to F-Secure Labs Principal Researcher Jarno Niemela, the root of many IoT problems starts with the manufacturers’ supply chains.

Niemela says: “Most device vendors license software development kits for the chipsets they use in their smart cameras, smart appliances, and other IoT devices. That’s where the vulnerabilities and other issues are coming from. Device vendors have to start asking for more in terms of security from these suppliers, and also be prepared to issue updates and patches as they become available.”

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