Year in Review: Cyber attacks on IoT devices, networks grow in intensity

FierceTelecom is wrapping up an eventful 2016 by taking a hard look at five of the most important trends and developments that emerged in the market this year. Today’s final installment looks at the growing importance of network security.

The news: The distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) cyberattack that internet provider Dyn suffered in October illustrated how damaging the Mirai botnet, and other cyber threats, can be to the internet.

Mirai malware is a DDoS Trojan that targets Linux systems and, in particular, internet of things (IoT) devices. The Trojan uses malware from phishing emails to infect computer or home networks initially and then spreads the virus to various devices to create a robot network.

What was particularly disturbing about the Dyn attack was that devices such as DVRs and IP cameras played a big role because they can be hacked pretty easily and because those devices' hardware contains a root password that most users don't even know about.

Mirai, and other similar attacks, could become an even larger problem as more consumers continue adopt IoT devices at the home. Indeed, IAB revealed in its recent study that two-thirds, or 62 percent, of American consumers own at least one IoT connected device. Meantime, Parks Associates reported that nearly half of U.S. households plan to purchase a smart home product in the next 12 months.

One of the key vulnerable points in the IoT-centric home is the broadband gateway. For example, a recent report pointed out how a number of Netgear router models have been affected by new vulnerability that could allow hackers to overtake the devices.

Some operators and vendors are responding to this growing trend. For example, Akamai just announced that it is acquiring Cyberfend, a bot and automation detection software specialist. The company will combine Cyberfend’s capabilities with its own Bot Manager software it launched earlier this year with the aim of offering online businesses the technology required to effectively distinguish between real customers and attackers.

And as part of its DDoS Mitigation Service, Level 3 said it has created seven of what it calls security scrubbing centers at key global locations that can rapidly respond to an attack on a business' network.

Why it matters: The threat from DDoS and other cyber attacks is clear. Indeed, some lawmakers are calling for a probe into claims that Russian hackers worked to influence the U.S. presidential election.

Thus, being able to understand and thwart security threats to IoT devices at homes and businesses will continue to be an issue as hackers find new ways to launch wide scale attacks. For service providers and vendors, the growing threats also represent an opportunity to develop and sell new services that can mitigate these issues. It will also require traditional home network routing vendors to be more diligent about making sure bad code is not corrupting their devices.