2017 was an eventful year in the world of Internet Thing Under Attack, unfortunately not for good reasons. It marked the first time a large scale cyber security attack was carried out in the form of the Mirai Malware, which recruited IoT devices into a network botnet that was used to create large-scale, disruptive denial-of- service attacks all over the world. During Def Con Hacking Conference, a group of researchers successfully demonstrated it was possible to lock an IoT enabled thermometer with a targeted ransomware attack.
First, let’s understand the difference between traditional ransomware attacks typically found on PCs and servers, and the type of ransomware attacks starting to emerge on IoT devices. The former infects the target computer or device and then encrypts key data before asking the victim to pay a ransom in exchange for unlocking it again. IoT ransomwares are different, here the attackers focus on using ransomware to lock users out of their devices completely. This can turn catastrophic in certain scenarios such as getting locked out of thermostats controlling air conditioning system in a data center. Unfortunately, the frightening truth is that majority of the IoT devices in use today are susceptible to such attacks.
When considering the deployment of any Internet Thing Under Attack devices both now and in the future, device security has to be heavily scrutinized in the following three areas:
Hardware: Physical security should always be a key consideration when evaluating any new device. To keep devices secure tamper-proofing measures can be integrated and inclusion of physical switches can also allow the user to turn off certain features if required.
Software: Strict software security policy should be ensured. This should include the ability to update or patch the device remotely when needed.
Network: Data exchange should be governed over secure protocols such as HTTPS. Strong authentication methods should also be used.
IoT maybe still in its infancy but the users, vendors and manufacturers of IoT need to start taking security much more seriously. Starting with basic security procedures will go a long way in defending against new wave of ransomware attacks seen in 2017.