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What are IoT attacks?

An IoT attack is a cyberattack that targets Internet of Things systems, which include physical devices, vehicles, buildings, and other objects embedded with software that enables them to collect or exchange data. As IoT grows, the number of cyber threats increase. Read on to learn more about IoT attacks and how to protect your systems.

What are IoT attacks?

Types of IoT attacks

IoT attacks are a cybercrime against Internet of Things devices. These devices can be vulnerable to hijacking due to weak IoT security measures, outdated firmware, and poor system design. Here are some of the most common types of IoT attacks:

  • Device spoofing. A type of attack where a malicious device manipulates an authentic device’s IP address, MAC address, or other identifying information and pretends to be a legitimate one.
  • Man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks. The concept of a MitM attack involves a hacker intercepting communication between two systems. The attacker impersonates the original sender to trick the other party into thinking they’re receiving a legitimate message. MitM is usually carried out to extract sensitive information and disrupt services.
  • Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. DDoS attacks on IoT devices overload the network by flooding it with constant traffic, such as fake requests. This way, an attacker overwhelms the system, crashes it, and causes a denial of service to legitimate users.
  • Eavesdropping. Threat actors perform eavesdropping, also known as sniffing or spying, to intercept and listen to or monitor the communication between IoT devices.
  • Malware attacks. Cybercriminals install malicious software on IoT devices to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data, control the device, or spy on network activity or conversations.
  • Zero-day attacks. During a zero-day attack, a hacker exploits unpatched vulnerabilities in the software of IoT devices previously unknown to cybersecurity engineers. Such attacks are dangerous because there’s no available fix during an attack.
  • Password cracking. Hackers use different methods, like brute force attacks, to decrypt system passwords and gain access to IoT devices. The weaker the default passwords and password practices, the easier it is for attackers to hijack IoT systems.
  • Firmware manipulation. In this type of attack, a cybercriminal modifies the firmware of an IoT device to alter its functionality and further perform malicious actions.

These most common IoT attacks underscore the importance of strong security measures, regular software updates, secure passwords, and intrusion detection systems (IDS). It’s always better to take care of your system security now so you don’t have to regret it later.

How IoT devices are attacked

Most IoT devices offer immense convenience and efficiency for our daily lives and routine tasks, whether at home or work. Aside from your laptop, smartphone, or tablet, which are relatively well secured, other devices like smart TVs or wearables to track your steps are more often exposed to cybersecurity threats. The following are the most common reasons why your IoT devices may become a sweet catch for hackers:

  • Weak passwords. One of the fundamental reasons IoT devices are a prime target for threat actors is default or easy-to-guess passwords that allow them entry into the device with little effort.
  • Unsecured cloud storage. Lack of protection in cloud storage may allow hackers to manipulate or steal your confidential data easily.
  • Unpatched software. Because outdated IoT software or firmware contain known vulnerabilities, it provides threat actors a loophole to exploit weaknesses.
  • Insecure network connections. Public or unsecured Wi-Fi networks increase the risk of devices being attacked and ease hackers’ process of gaining control over them.
  • Lack of encryption. Anyone who intercepts your unencrypted data can read it, which increases IoT security risks.
  • Physical tampering. Physical access to an IoT device may allow attackers to extract sensitive data, install malicious firmware, and compromise the security of your IoT devices.

Because of increasing reliance on IoT devices, it’s crucial to remain vigilant and proactive about these security threats. Ensure you take all the necessary measures to safeguard your IoT devices from potential threats and enable their secure operation.

Signs your IoT device has been attacked

IoT devices are our smart everyday buddies, designed to make our lives easier. Your refrigerator talks to your phone, your wearable device knows your heart rate, and your thermostat optimizes your home temperature. However, just like all technology, it may become a target for hackers. Read on to discover signs that your IoT device may have been compromised.

  • The device behaves abnormally. If you detect unusual activity on your device, like it switching on and off without your interference, it might be a sign that your device is under someone else’s control.
  • Surges in network traffic. The unexplained rise in data usage may indicate that a device is sending large amounts of data to a hacker.
  • Device or network sluggishness. If your device becomes unresponsive or your network connection is prolonged, it may be a consequence of a malware infection.
  • Unfamiliar emails or messages. If you receive an email with a password reset request or other unwanted messages, it may be a sign that a hacker is trying to gain control of your account.
  • Unusual account activity. If your account associated with an IoT device shows unfamiliar devices or unseen login locations, it could be the consequence of an attack.

IoT devices may be an integral part of our lives, but if they fall into the wrong hands, they may become a burden. So stay observant, remember these signs, and ensure your smart devices remain protected.

Real-life examples of IoT attacks

As frightening as attacks on IoT devices may sound, real-life examples show the damage cybercriminals can do by hacking into critical systems. Whether their goal is to steal sensitive data or to disrupt the operations of organizations, it’s a highly unpleasant process that you can avoid by choosing the right IoT security solutions. Therefore, a few historic examples may help you understand the severity of IoT device attacks better.

One of the most infamous IoT attacks was carried out with the help of the Mirai botnet in 2016. The Mirai malware infected IoT devices like cameras and routers using default login credentials. This malicious software created a botnet for infected devices and launched a series of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. One of the primary victims was the DNS provider Dyn, which resulted in Netflix, Twitter, and The New York Times services being unavailable for a brief period of time.

One of the most frightening IoT attacks happened in 2017 at the medical device company St. Jude Medical. Vital medical devices like pacemakers turned out to be vulnerable to hacking. The FDA confirmed that some of St. Jude’s implantable cardiac devices were at risk and could allow threat actors to drain the battery or, even scarier, administer incorrect shocks, the high-energy pulses delivered by devices like implantable defibrillators to correct life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms.

In 2015, two security researchers demonstrated how to manipulate a Jeep Cherokees’s telematics system on a highway by controlling the car’s engine, brakes, and other major functions from miles away. Because this could potentially lead to hackers attacking the car system and using it for lethal purposes like killing people by manipulating the brake system, Fiat Chrysler invested 1.4 million to resolve the system deficiencies.

How to protect your IoT devices

Taking extra precautions to protect your IoT devices is crucial. It is not only important for your data security but for your personal safety too. Strategies that can increase your IoT devices’ security include:

  • Use strong and unique passwords. Change the default login credentials and create unique and complex passwords.
  • Regularly update software and firmware. Software and firmware updates usually contain the latest security patches and bug fixes. So as soon as you update your system, it becomes a lot harder for hackers to exploit your device.
  • Disable unnecessary app permissions. Many devices come with features like remote access enabled by default. If you don’t need these features, disable them to reduce potential points of entry for hackers.
  • Implement two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security, making it harder for unauthorized users to access your accounts and devices.
  • Secure network connections with a VPN. A virtual private network (VPN) creates a secure connection between your devices and the VPN server that can help protect your device’s data from being intercepted.

By applying these simple strategies, you can up your IoT devices’ security significantly and reduce the risk of a cyberattack.

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