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The Internet of Thieves? Why IoT urgently needs to be secured

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For those who are interested in the Internet of Things (IoT) and IT security, I recommend an insightful article from Fortune magazine, titled “Who to Blame for the Attack on the Internet.” The author, Jeff John Roberts, describes a worrying trend of DDoS attacks initiated from compromised IoT devices—Internet-connected cameras, printers, and so on—to launch an attack on a critical part of the Internet, the domain name server (DNS) infrastructure.

Cyber criminals have set their sights on networked devices such as televisions, refrigerators, and baby cameras. We hear every day about the increasing number of hacker attacks, but this is an entirely new problem. It’s been created by the incredibly high number of inadequately protected IoT systems flooding the market.

In December 2016, Juniper Research estimated the number of connected IoT devices would exceed 46 billion in 2021, a 200% increase from 2016. Juniper said growth would be driven in large part by a reduction in the unit cost of hardware, and forecast sensor prices dropping to an average of $1.

Low cost and low security go hand in hand, and these vulnerable devices can easily be found by anyone bent on mischief thanks to Shodan, the search engine for the Internet of Things. In 2013, it was described as the scariest search engine on the Internet because it enabled almost any device connected to the Internet to be interrogated and its vulnerabilities exposed.

At the RSA conference in February, researchers Numaan Huq and Stephen Hilt from Trend Micro revealed how they had used Shodan to discover more than 178 mn IoT devices vulnerable to hackers in the ten largest U.S. cities. These included devices used to control business operations, traffic management, power generation, and manufacturing. Exploitation of such a vulnerability to launch an attack on a nuclear power plant’s cooling system does not bear thinking about!

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