Hackers ‘educating’ themselves to launch IoT attacks

KV Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on September 23, 2019 Published on September 23, 2019

What the cyber security experts discovered after taking a sneak peek into the flourishing knowledge-sharing networks is spine-chilling. Hackers operating underground are seen arming themselves for an attack on Internet of Things (IoT) devices as they see a proliferation of connected gadgets, both at homes and in the organisations in the near future.

In particular, the cyber underground, comprising people of all nationalities, is abuzz with discussion on skill-sets that are required to break into the IoT networks.

“Criminal online communities seem to be very interested in learning how to compromise all kinds of IoT devices. There are many tutorials and research being compiled on hacking techniques and vulnerability exploitation,” experts at the cyber security solutions firm Trend Micro said.

In a report on ‘Uncovering IoT Threats in the Cybercrime Underground’, the firm gives a graphic account of how hackers and ‘hacktivists’ work in sharing and selling skills and kits.

The good news, however, is that it has not yet seen signs of any concerted effort to massively damage or compromise any IoT infrastructure. “We are starting to see the first attempts to find ways to monetise device infections, and these may boost IoT attacks,” it said. Cyber criminals are inherently motivated by financial gain and, so far, there are only a few ways of monetising IoT attacks.

There, however, is some bad news. The criminals are refining their business models to include these online devices and they are finding a certain measure of success. “As more devices with better capabilities connect to the internet, cyber criminals will keep trying to find new ways of infecting them and make money from those infections,” it said.

“They discuss IoT-related topics. Discussions range from news and attack tutorials to actual advertised malicious services,” the report said. “We also followed three threat actors and traced their journey to IoT cybercrime. We see an evolution in the next year or so,” it points out.

Dream scenario

Having direct access to all kinds of equipment allows cyber criminals to take over the Internet-enabled machines much more easily. Once the device is under his control, a hacker can steal the data it holds or can use the device to launch an attack on other victims.

A weak security configuration or an easily predictable password or a system that requires no authentication makes it easier for hackers to get into the system. The experts feel that industrial machines and systems should use a virtual private network (VPN) connection if they need to be accessed remotely.

Routers are the most prone to future attacks. Attackers consider routers as IoT devices because they are possible entry points for an attack.

Trend Micro predicts an evolution of IoT attacks in the next 12 to 18 months. People must shun the nonchalant attitude of ‘availability first, then security second’. “We expect to see a much more mature set of attacker business models,” it said.

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Published on September 23, 2019
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