Yesterday, the BBC broke the news that thousands of TalkTalk and Post Office customers had their internet access cut by an attack on certain routers. See below for several comments from cybersecurity experts.
Stephen Gates, chief research intelligence analyst at NSFOCUS:
“The upsurge of commercial, industrial, and municipal IoT-based attacks and outages was part of my predictions for 2017. It appears the world will not wait for January 1, and the weaponisation of these technologies has arrived – ahead of schedule. No longer can service providers continue to operate their vulnerable networks in this fashion. Hackers apparently have them in their cross hairs, and the damage they can cause to their scantily secured infrastructures will continue to be a major pain in the backside for their customers; who are now likely looking for other options.”
Mike Ahmadi, global director – critical systems security at Synopsys:
“Massively scalable attacks are the current trend in cybersecurity, and this should raise concern among all users and organisations. We have multiple issue to deal with here. One is the fact that most product vendors and organisations deploying the products remain unaware of the level of vulnerabilities in their systems. The other issue is for those that are aware, strategies to mitigate against large, scalable attacks are either rudimentary or non-existent. Simply put, organisations are not good at preparing for what they do not know about. The amount of risk out there is staggering, but there are ways for stakeholders to raise their awareness and come up with more effective pro-active strategies.”
Gavin Millard, EMEA Technical Director of Tenable Network Security:
“With the battle for control of poorly configured IoT devices and routers being played out by multiple cybercriminal gangs at the moment, having default credentials on any device connected to the internet has a high probability of ending up with some derivative of Mirai installed. Any device that requires an inbound connection from the internet should have a strong, non default, password rather than one of the list Mirai is currently targeting. If you do have something with default credentials, reboot it and change the passwords immediately.”
Adam Brown, manager, security solutions at Synopsys:
“Now that the source code for Mirai is out there this will most likely not be the last that we will see if this type of attack. Modern routers with 1+GHz CPU’s make a great platform for a Botnet army and being located at the end of a high speed broadband connection make a great base for executing a DDoS attack. This outage may just be the first symptom of these infections. Suppliers of hardware like this must ensure they govern their supply chain.”
Andy Green, senior technical specialist at Varonis:
“The lessons that should be learned from these ongoing Mirai attacks is just how vulnerable we were as a result of our own IT laziness. Sure, we can excuse harried consumers for treating their home routers and IoT gadgetry like toasters and other kitchen appliances – just plug it in and forget about it. So what excuse do professional IT types have for this rookie-level behaviour?
Unfortunately, default-itis still plagues large organisations. As recently as 2014, the Verizon DBIR specifically noted that for POS-based attacks, the hackers typically scanned for public ports and then guessed for weak passwords on the PoS server or device – either ones that were never changed or were created for convenience, “admin1234”. This is exactly the technique used in the Mirai botnet attack against the IoT cameras.
Even if hackers use other methods to get inside a corporate network — phishing, most likely — they can still take advantage of internal enterprise software in which defaults accounts were never changed.
For those organisations who think that the Mirai botnet incident has nothing to do with them, or have to convince their board of this, here are two points to consider.
1. The lesson of the Mirai botnet attack is that the perimeter will always have leaks. For argument’s sake, even if you overlook phishing scenarios, there will continue to be vulnerabilities and holes in routers, network devices, and other core infrastructure that allow hackers to get inside.
2. Human nature tells us that IT will also continue to experience default-itis. Enterprise software is complicated. IT is often under pressure to quickly get apps and systems to work. As a result, default accounts and weak passwords that were set for reasons of convenience — thinking that users will change the passwords later — will always be an issue for organisations.
You have to plan for attackers breaching the first line of defences, and therefore have in place security controls to monitor and detect intruders.
In a way, we should be thankful for the “script kiddies” who launched the Mirai botnet DDoS attack: it’s a great lesson for showing that companies should be looking inward, not at the perimeter, in planning their data security and risk mitigation programs.”
Lisa Baergen, director at NuData Security:
“The unfortunate reality is that organisations that have been victimised by a breach can find themselves getting targeted over and over as cybercriminals seek to exploit previous known weaknesses or test systems to find new vulnerabilities.”