October 27, 2016
Written by Jim DeLeskie

Halloween mayhem arrived early for some last week via the internet. It was enough to get me
off my ass and start this blog. For years, myself and others have warned about the security risk
posed by the rapidly growing number of IoT devices. Well it’s happening, it happened again last
week, and it is time we all take notice because it is only going to get worse.

Last week’s attack was on the company Dyn — which disrupted some major sites including
Twitter, Netflix and Amazon. Dyn offers Domain Name System (DNS) services which operate
as post offices of a sort and converts web domain names to IP addresses. Attacking a DNS
platform like Dyn results in a massive disruption across the Internet. Imagine losing your
contacts in your phone. How would you text your friends if you don’t know their numbers?

The Mirai malware was key with this disruption. That’s the same malware strain used to launch
the 620 Gpbs attack on a security journalist’s website last month.

Late December, 2015, more than 230,000 Ukrainian residents went without power after an
Internet attack disabled power stations in their city. It was the first confirmed hack to take down
a power grid. Think about that for a minute, and think about what could be if the power went out
in your city, for a week. No surgeries at the hospital, no traffic lights, no hot showers, the list
goes on.

There’s very real worry of cyber manipulation in the upcoming American election. This follows
the arrest of a Russian citizen suspected of hacking US targets. And the Obama administration
formally accusing the Russian government of stealing emails from the Democratic National
Committee.

Silent weapons; creeping killers

Attacks are easy to do and cheap to launch. The virtual “bullets” are found in unsuspecting,
innocuous places: people’s pockets, keeping food warm, tallying your steps walked and
watching your kids feed their broccoli to Fido. Cell phones, refrigerators, and nanny cams are
just some of the billions of devices out there with processing capability. And processing
capability means the capability to be compromised.

Internet security is not the focus of consumer devices when they’re being built. The financial
bottom line is the focus, and manufacturers are not paying extra to secure them. How often do
you update your SMART television? Just imagine when your microwave, dishwasher and fridge
are connected.

It’s bad, it’s ugly and it going to get worse

Less then 10% of Mirai ‘s 600 000 plus infected devices were used in last week’s attack on Dyn.
In simple terms, it barley brushed the surface. The number of IoT devices available is rapidly
increasing and the sheer amount of data stored on-line or in the cloud is also sky-rocketing (pun
intended). We have to get smarter because what we traditionally relied on for protection,
including firewalls and anti-virus software, isn’t cutting it anymore.

Think of it as the Cold War of this era. At that time, Mutually Assured Destruction – aptly
known as MAD – held the so-called super powers in check. That knowledge of the other
country's nuclear capability kept those two scorpions poised in the bottle – but with neither
striking. In terms of cyber crime, the difficulty lies with identifying who controls the scorpions.

The use of IoT devices toward evil deeds in the hands of the bad guys is limitless. Whether in
the form of data disruption of services DDOS along with those silently creeping intelligence
gatherers, advanced persistent threats APTs. The motivation can be political, power or money —
all time-honoured usual suspects in the realm of war.

The many ways of how all of this interconnects I'll continue to explore on this site. It's like the
black market of the world right now. Bitcoins, data stealing and then potential manipulation
before releasing it to the public, thus blurring the lines of fact and fiction. The spies and moles of
this war linger not in your workplace or gym, but inside your devices.

The cyber bad guys are going to continue to walk up and down the street. As I said, the weapons
at their disposal are growing by the minute — literally. So all ISPs, companies, municipalities,
hospitals, elections, nation states are all potential targets. So we need a plan and it needs to be a
solid one.