It may be appropriate that a zombie network was created at Hallow’een time, but a host of well-known websites like Gov, Twitter, Spotify, Reddit, SoundCloud and PayPal didn’t see it as a Hallow’een prank! On 21st October, some hackers gained access to a vast number of devices that form part of the internet of things, to take down a number of websites by overwhelming DynDNS (effectively, the internet site directory).
If this sounds a bit like scifi – it’s not. The internet of things is about the low-cost small devices that are attached to the internet. The things are items such as WiFi or internet connected web cams, devices like NEST units (which operate the intelligent home), Routers, Raspberry Pis and many more – in fact, potentially anything that is attached to an internet connection.
The zombie network gets access to hundreds of thousands of these small internet connected devices and gives them mass instructions. As they are really little computers they can be programmed and, while they can’t do anything too complex, imagine the effect if hundreds of thousands of requests for access are received simultaneously by a website – and then repeated every second.
The website in question’s server would have a nervous breakdown and it results in a denial of service – for everyone. The server just can’t cope.
For example, if you’re running a WiFi web cam it will have a chip that has a log in (even though you may be unaware of this – it’s probably set to the manufacturer’s default log in). This means that someone can write a script to find web cams and take them over.
Experts have been waiting for this to happen for a while – and perhaps the scariest thing of all is that the zombie attack withdrew. Some people think it’s a concerted effort to test how good defences are – and expect it to happen again.
One company has done a global recall, but most have not, because it costs too much to update all these devices, they’re low cost, virtually disposable items – and there are a lot of them out there.
Finding passwords isn’t as hard as you might think – did you know that you can Google ‘passwords’ and get passwords for all kinds of things. Manufacturers default password is frequently something obvious like ‘PASSWORD’!
What can you do to protect yourself?
If you have a port open to view your home computer remotely, but haven’t installed a password your computer is open to attack if it’s on. Putting a password in will help to stop other people viewing it.
Unfortunately, some devices have a manufacturer-set password that can’t be changed. It’s a good move to check this out – especially if you’re thinking of purchasing any new devices.
Our advice, check manufacturer and see if you have latest update. Make sure your Firewall is secure – ask an expert!