In recent years, cyberattacks have been on the rise, and don’t seem to be limited by choice of targets. With the degree of internet connectivity in our homes, jobs, and vehicles, cybercriminals are never short of openings. As we all know, the Internet-of-Things (IoT) gives everyday devices online connectivity, a number that’s projected to reach the tens of billions by 2020.
Only in recent years have researchers and industry experts realized the IoT has ultimately become a source of multiple outlets that hackers can target, if they want to infiltrate an online network. As a result, we’ve seen an array of cyberattacks (varying in severity) that started by a hacker breaching one (or multiple) connected items that most of us wouldn’t even expect to be capable of becoming that gateway for cybercriminals to access a network, or have any internet connectivity at all. Below are four unordinary items that have been used to facilitate cyberattacks in recent years, most of which (at least at the time of the incident) nobody ever truly expected to be used in that context.
A report from the cyber defense firm Darktrace, details an instance where a fish tank was used in a cyberattack to extract data from a North American casino. The unnamed casino featured a high-tech fish tank model with internet connectivity that allowed the tank to be remotely monitored, receive automatic temperature and salinity adjustments, and even automate feedings.
Upon connecting to the fish tank’s sensors, the cybercriminals discovered additional vulnerabilities, and were able to move laterally throughout the network. The data was already flowing by the time Darktrace was called, who immediately detected the tank’s unusual activity once they began monitoring the company’s network. While the tank’s communication network with the casino’s appeared normal, the data being pumped to the outside raised a few red flags. Up to 10 gigabytes of data was stolen by hackers, and the data was sent to a remote server in Finland.
Digital Video Recorder (DVR)
One of the biggest cyberattacks that occurred in recent memory targeted the New Hampshire-based company Dyn, which monitors and routes internet traffic. In October of 2016, hackers temporarily took down popular websites for several hours like Amazon, Twitter, Netflix, and Etsy (just to mention a few). The attack was implemented in the form of DDoS (distributed denial of service), where a server is bombarded with millions of fake requests, preventing the server from responding to real ones, and crashing under the weight.
The cybercriminals (who were never caught), “enslaved” ordinary household electronic devices with internet connectivity that included a large number of DVRs. The hackers created a “digital army” of co-opted robot networks (a botnet) that sent millions of requests to Dyn’s servers. These requests were directed at will, which knocked out the servers. Mirai software from phishing emails first infected computers or home networks that perpetuated the attack by spreading to connected devices like DVRs, cable set-top boxes, routers, and surveillance cameras.
While there’s no widespread knowledge or documented instances confirming a tea kettle was used to facilitate a cyberattack, a security researcher demonstrated how internet-connected tea kettles can make the perfect beacon for hackers. Ken Munro, who works at PenTest Partners, infiltrated an insecure iKettle, a device whose developers proclaimed was “the world’s first WiFi kettle”, by using a home’s stolen WiFi password. The kettle, which could connect to a user’s home WiFi network, has a built-in Android and iOS app, allowing the user to switch on the kettle and boil water from another location.
The device’s biggest flaw is in the Android iKettle app, which keeps the kettle’s password as the default value. Munro used a directional antenna aimed at the target house where the iKettle was being used, forcing the device to drop its current WiFi network, and tricking the kettle into connecting with Munro’s unencrypted WiFi network. The iKettle connected using the same credentials for its original encrypted network. Munro was able to convince the iKettle to provide the encrypted network’s key by sending two commands via Telnet, which enabled the device to hand Munro the encryption in plain text.
In another bizarre cyberattack documented by Darktrace, an unknown cybercriminal hijacked smart drawing pads used at an architectural firm to perpetuate a DDoS attack as part of an IoT botnet. The hacker used default login credentials that came with the design pad software to infiltrate the devices. It’s worth noting the architectural firm had the smart pads connected to its internal WiFi network, and was being exposed to external connections. The hacker exploited the smart drawing pads to send high volumes of data to websites across the globe that were owned and operated by entertainment and design companies, along with government entities.
Filed Under: M2M (machine to machine)