Last year, the Mirai botnet wreaked havoc, using compromised Internet of Things (IoT) devices to take down large internet providers in North America and Europe with a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. While Mirai has largely faded from view, Bleeping Computer reported that a new threat named IoT_Reaper is exploiting specific IoT security flaws and has already infected more than 2 million devices worldwide.
More Than Mirai
According to Wired, researchers from security firms Check Point and Qihoo identified the new threat and discovered that although it uses some of Mirai’s code, there’s a significant difference: Instead of using a list of common device credentials to gain access, Reaper uses known security flaws to bypass existing security and take control.
So far, the new botnet has targeted mostly IP security cameras, network video recorders and digital video recorders. It uses an exploit package that targets popular routers such as D-Link, Netgear and Linksys. The code is regularly updated to include new vulnerability data and command-and-control (C&C) infrastructure to manage the growing horde of devices.
The good news is that, according to SiliconANGLE, researchers haven’t seen any other hostile action from the new IoT security threat so far. The not-so-good news: There’s support for a DDoS attack in the Reaper source file, suggesting an eventual tipping point once the malware-makers control enough IoT technology and decide to activate their botnet.
Without any data on the creators’ motives or eventual goals, it’s hard to say what this attack will look like. However, with more than 2 million devices on deck, there’s a good chance it will leave Mirai in the dust.
Kicking the IoT Security Hero Complex
How do companies push back against the latest botnet scare? The obvious advice applies: Limit the exposure of IoT devices. This means changing default passwords and logins, and applying regular security patches to help combat emerging threats.
According to VentureBeat, it also means eschewing the emerging hero mythos around IoT defense. Consider the WannaCry ransomware outbreak: Companies the world over were gearing up for potential disaster when a lone actor discovered the kill switch and derailed large-scale corporate disruption.
This kind of heroism isn’t dependable and relies on room to operate. What happens when a router smashes the internet with billions of infected devices?
In effect, the rise of IoT security threats are a warning against moderate, half-baked security responses. The interconnectivity and ubiquity of IoT devices now makes it possible for an internet killer to emerge — a piece of malware so effective and so widespread that there’s no solid ground for security heroes to build up their resistance and strike back.
The only solution is a concerted, immediate effort. Companies must be willing to share IoT security data and demand built-in security from device-makers. Put simply, companies need to take a hard line now or risk malicious actors reaping the benefits of IoT security flaws.