IoT and DDoS Attack: Pervasiveness leads to Compromised Security

How your smartwatch may be an evil bot in disguise?

Let’s consider an average Joe on the street. He walks to his business meeting, scheduled and navigated, courtesy his smartwatch.

During his day, he periodically checks the security in his home through the Nanny Cam. He sets off for home after a tiring day instructing his voice assistant to switch on the air conditioning and set the lights on dim in his office den.

He comes home to errands like printing photos for his son’s assignment, doing the laundry, and setting the sprinklers for the lawn- all while he relaxes on the couch watching the newest show on Netflix.

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The Internet of Things (IoT) has enabled such home automation solutions and other widespread applications that have made interconnection of devices possible. When one home can have so many IoT devices, the magnitude of the pervasiveness of technology in our lives is apparent.

In 2016, it was these very IoT devices in homes that crippled web hosting systems operated by Domain Name System (DNS) provider Dyn.

They were the targets of a series of distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS attacks). The IoT-enabled devices were infected with a malware called Mirai, forming a botnet of interconnected devices- mostly home routers, IP cameras, baby monitors, printers, etc.

This botnet collectively choked the pipeline with millions of DNS lookup requests from tens of millions of IP addresses.

Mirai gained control of the IoT device through the brute force of the security credentials of those devices.

This global outage of services and websites resulting from network congestion exposed the vulnerabilities of IoT devices without DDoS protection.

Security on IoT Device

Today’s IoT devices may differ in brand name for marketing, but many of them share the same hardware and software capabilities.

IoT devices’ security capabilities are also not as effective as current operating firmware running on computers and smartphones.

This ubiquitous presence of the increased number of devices has exponentially heightened the susceptibility to malware like Mirai. Phishing attacks, default passwords, malicious websites, and software downloads expose the user to such malware, after which it whizzes through the system and gains control of your device.

The cyber attacker from a Command and Control Centre sends the malware directions until which it may remain dormant in the host device.

Host devices can infect peers on the same network. Repeating this over millions of devices leads to the creation of a botnet.

This botnet can create network congestion through a DDoS method; it can also find applications in cryptocurrency mining and social implications like trolls, ad fraud, and fake news.

DDoS Protection

The DDoS attacks can never disappear, so mitigation is paramount. By protecting the servers your websites are hosted on, one can prevent the creation of a bottleneck of requests leading to a denial of access to genuine users.

These are a few ways to do this:

➢ Keep your device/appliance system up to date with all security and firmware updates.
➢ Increase the bandwidth depending on the traffic pattern.
➢ Install a DDoS protective appliance on your server infrastructure.
➢ Enable Content Delivery Network (CDN) on your server so that the requests divert to other servers in case of a DDoS attack. When you merge these with cloud servers, your risk of being crippled by DDoS attacks vastly decreases.
➢ Regularly monitor for the signs of such attacks.
➢ Use a cPanel web hosting platform to give comprehensive protection through a robust software firewall with the following features:

○ Use Config Server Security & Firewall (CSF) to block unwanted traffic.
○ cPanel’s IP Deny Manager to block IP addresses.
○ Mod_evasive Apache module can restrict traffic by blocking suspicious IP addresses.
○ Manual Blocking determines speed bumps by analyzing traffic patterns.

Keeping your IoT device safe and secure

➢ Use secure encryption settings for your router and associated credentials for all devices.
➢ Install an Antivirus wherever possible.
➢ Give permission prudently to installed apps.
➢ Always download software and applications from verified and trusted sources.
➢ Regularly update your device’s firmware.
➢ Do not connect to open untrusted Wi-Fi networks in a public place. Use VPNs judiciously.
➢ Research your options thoroughly before buying a device. Read through hardware specifications and technical reviews to understand the minute features that can provide resistance to malware.
➢ In case of a suspected attack, immediately restart your device and update your login credentials.

Many IoT devices and appliance manufacturers compromise security, making way for the smartwatch’s fancy features.

But this compromise can eventually lead it to be an instrument for widespread disruption and, at its worst, destruction.

Using IoT enabled devices isn’t a mistake. Their usage is only going to increase day after day. But its pervasiveness will invite a lot of cyberattacks.

DDoS based attacks have shown no signs of slowing down. Our only way of responding is to build immunity through firmly placed infrastructure on web hosting platforms and robust firewalls with evolving technology. Always be one step ahead.