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Cyxtera Research Says IoT Devices Under Constant Attack

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Cyxtera Technologies, a secure infrastructure company, recently released findings from an extensive research project, the “Detection of Threats to IoT Devices using Scalable VPN-forwarded Honeypots,” which reportedly shows that IoT devices are under constant attack. The results report more than 150 million connection attempts over 15 months.

This research reveals the detection of new attacks on IoT devices, especially those leveraging zero-day vulnerabilities for specific devices. In tandem with the release of this research, Cyxtera also announced new functionality in its Zero Trust solution, AppGate SDP, designed to extend the benefits of network micro-segmentation and software-defined perimeter to connected IoT devices. The company says its AppGate SDP IoT Connector enables enterprises to enforce consistent access control policies across users, servers, and devices to protect today’s complex and distributed resources.

The research was a joint effort by Cyxtera threat researcher Martin Ochoa and researchers from the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

Key report findings include:

  • Researchers detected more than 150 million connection attempts to 4,642 distinct IP addresses.
  • 64 percent of incoming connections seemed to originate in China, with another 14 percent from the United States. This was followed by the United Kingdom (nine percent), Israel (eight percent) and Slovakia (six percent).
  • All IoT devices saw attempted logins immediately upon coming online and the number of login attempts increased steadily over time.
  • Within days of new malware campaigns going public – such as Mirai, Satori, and Hakai – those malware families were being used to attack IoT devices from the honeypot. In many cases, the increase in activity was identifiable in the days and weeks before the malware was publicly named.
  • 54 percent of connections received by the honeypot were via Telnet port, while HTTP ports received almost all of the remaining connections.
  • IP cameras received the majority of connections in the honeypot, suggesting greater attacker interest in those IoT devices as compared to others such as printers and smart switches. Several recent, large-scale attacks on IoT devices have targeted IP cameras.

“IoT devices are an attractive target for attackers, because they are often a security after-thought and its harder to keep them patched and up-to-date — if patches are even available at all,” said Alejandro Correa Bahnsen, VP, Data Science, Cyxtera. “The researchers involved in this project accurately detected several large-scale attacks targeting IoT devices and demonstrated the frequency and speed with which these devices are targeted. This approach can be replicated by other threat researchers to broaden our collective knowledge about these vulnerabilities.”

The report “Detection of Threats to IoT Devices using Scalable VPN-forwarded Honeypots,” will be presented at the Ninth ACM Conference on Data and Application Security and Privacy (CODASPY) in Richardson, TX, USA, March 25-27, 2019. Authors: Amit Tambe, Yan Lin Aung, Ragav Sridharan, Martin Ochoa, Nils Ole Tippnehauer, Asaf Shabtai, and Yuval Elovici, 2019.


The IoT Evolution Expo, and collocated events, IoT Evolution Health, LPWAN Expo, The Smart City Event, and IIoT Conference, will take place Jan. 29 to Feb 1 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Visit IoTEvolutionExpo.com to register now.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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