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Attack Types & VectorsBotnetsSecurity

IoT Botnets on the Rise

October 2, 2018 — by Daniel Smith1

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Over the last two years, the criminal community has shifted its focus away from exploit kits as a mean of payload delivery and began focusing on exploiting IoT devices for the purpose of botnet development.

Botnets are all the rage and have become more advanced than the days of Sub7 and Pretty Pack. They possess the capability to target multiple devices on different architectures and infect them with a diverse range of payloads. But why are exploit kits falling out of favor and where is the evolution of botnets going?

Exploit kits in general are prepackaged toolkits that focus on compromising a device with a specific set of exploits. Typically, a victim is directed in a number of different ways to an attack page where the exploit kit will target an application in a browser such as Adobe Flash, Java or Silverlight. Once the victim is compromised by the exploit kit, it will drop and run a malicious payload on the targeted machine. What that payload is depends on the criminal or the person leasing the exploit kit for the day, but today they are mainly used to distribute ransomware or crypto mining payloads.

Exploit kits, a once popular avenue for an attack are now barely used due to the popularity of other attack vectors. Another major reason for the decrease in exploit kits activity is a result of authors abandoning their projects. But why did they abandon their project? Many experts would agree that this was the result of updated browser security and limited availability of undisclosed exploits needed to update their kits.

Unlike IoT devices, Adobe and Java exploits tend to be patched as soon as they become aware of the problem. This is a major challenge for criminals and one that involves a lot of effort and research on the criminals’ behalf. So the attacker is left with a choice. Invest time and research into an undiscovered exploit, or target devices that are rarely maintained patched or updated.

Enter: The IoT Botnet

Today modern botnets are mainly comprised of infected IoT devices such as cameras, routers, DVRs, wearables and other embedded technologies. The evolution in the botnet landscape highlights the security risks from millions of Internet-connected devices configured with default credentials or manufactures who won’t issue updates. Hackers can build enormous botnets consisting of a wide variety of devices and architectures because of this.

In comparison to web browser exploits, IoT devices come with poor security features such as open ports and default credentials. They are also poorly maintained and hardly receive updates. The process of capturing devices for a botnet is a fairly simple task that’s mainly automated. Hackers typically compromise these devices via brute force login. They have also recently evolved to inject exploit via open ports to compromise devices. They leverage these exploits typically after a researcher discloses a vulnerability.

Overall it is an automated process in which a bot is scanning the internet to identify potential targets and sending that information back to a reporting process. If a match is found, the device is exploited with an injection exploit and a malicious payload is downloaded to the device. The payloads downloaded today can vary, but it mainly gives the bot-herder the ability to remotely control the infected device just like a traditional PC botnet.

IoT botnets continue to evolve and they are becoming more versatile. It wasn’t long ago when Mirai reached the 1tbps mark but the process of how it was done has improved, leading many of us in the industry to worry about the next super attack.

[You might also like: The Evolution of IoT Attacks]

Mirai was simply a botnet comprised of infected IoT devices who left telnet open and utilized 61 default credentials found on popular devices. Because the port was left open to the world and users didn’t change their password, the attacker was able to capture a large number of exposed devices.

Before Mirai’s success, there was Gafgyt and Aidra. Both of these are IoT botnets as well. They spread by infecting vulnerable routers with default credentials. These botnets were successful.  In fact, Gafgyt still continues to move in lockstep with Mirai.  However, after the publication of the Mirai source code, the field became over saturated and bot-herders started incorporating patches to prevent other malware and herders from infecting their captured device. This change forced herders to look for a new way of capturing devices.

Shortly after, new Mirai variants started appearing. This time, instead of using default credentials they started incorporating exploits to target vulnerable devices. Attacker Best Buy used a modified variant that leveraged the TR-069 RCE exploit in an attempted to infect hundreds of thousands of Deutsche Telekom routers. Following Best Buy, IoT reaper appeared with borrowed code from Mirai, but this time included the addition of a LUA execution environment so more complex exploits could be leveraged to enslave devices. As a result, IoT reaper came loaded with nine exploits.

Hajime was not as elaborate as IoT reapers but it did combine the default credentials found in the original Mirai sample and the TR-069 Exploit leveraged by Best Buy. The Omni Botnet, another variant of Mirai was found to contain two new exploits targeting Dasan GPON routers. And just recently a Mirai sample was discovered and found to contain 16 exploits, including the Apache Strut vulnerability used against Equifax while the newest variant of Gafgyt was found to contain an exploit targeting SonicWalls Global Management System.

[You might also like: Defending Against the Mirai Botnet]

These two recent discoveries highlight a major change in their targeting strategy. This indicated a shift from targeting consumer devices to unprotected and rarely updated enterprise devices putting more pressure on the industry to ensure devices are updated in a timely manner.

Today we see Botnet development filling the void of Exploit kits as they incorporate more attack vectors and exploits into their deployments.  Keep in mind that it’s not just about the multiple exploits. It also has to do with the speed in which exploitation occurs in the wild.

One of the main reasons we are seeing exploit kits fall out of favor is due to the improved browser security and speed in which the industry patches vulnerabilities targeting Flash, Java and Silverlight. This is not seen in the IoT botnet world where vulnerabilities are rarely patched.

At the end of the day, cybercriminals are following the money by taking the path of least resistance. Exploit kits over the last several years have been deemed high maintenance and hard to maintain due to improved security practices and a diminishing availability of private exploits.

We are also seeing cybercriminals looking to maximize their new efforts and infection rate by targeting insecure or unmaintained IoT devices with a wide variety of payloads ranging from crypto mining and ransomware to denial of service and fraud.

In the recent months, we have also seen a handful of botnets targeting enterprise devices which indicated an intention to move from targeting consumer devices to target enterprise devices that are poorly maintained and rarely updated.

Read: “When the Bots Come Marching In, a Closer Look at Evolving Threats from Botnets, Web Scraping & IoT Zombies”

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Attack Types & VectorsBotnetsDDoSSecurity

The Evolution of IoT Attacks

August 30, 2018 — by Daniel Smith2

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What is the Internet of Things (IoT)? IoT is the ever-growing network of physical devices with embedded technologies that connect and exchange data over the internet. If the cloud is considered someone else’s computer, IoT devices can be considered the things you connect to the internet beyond a server or a PC/Laptop. These are items such as cameras, doorbells, light bulbs, routers, DVRs, wearables, wireless sensors, automated devices and just about anything else.

IoT devices are nothing new, but the attacks against them are. They are evolving at a rapid rate as growth in connected devices continues to rise and shows no sign of letting up. One of the reasons why IoT devices have become so popular in recent years is because of the evolution of cloud and data processing which provides manufacturers cheaper solutions to create even more ‘things’. Before this evolution, there weren’t many options for manufacturers to cost-effectively store and process data from devices in a cloud or data center.  Older IoT devices would have to store and process data locally in some situations. Today, there are solutions for everyone and we continue to see more items that are always on and do not have to store or process data locally.

[You might also like: The 7 Craziest IoT Device Hacks]

Cloud and Data Processing: Good or Bad?

This evolution in cloud and data processing has led to an expansion of IoT devices, but is this a good or a bad thing? Those that profit from this expansion would agree that this is positive because of the increase in computing devices that can assist, benefit or improve the user’s quality of life. But those in security would be quick to say that this rapid rise in connected devices has also increased the attack landscape as there is a lack of oversight and regulation of these devices. As users become more dependent on these IoT devices for daily actives, the risk also elevates. Not only are they relying more on certain devices, but they are also creating a much larger digital footprint that could expose personal or sensitive data.

In addition to the evolution of IoT devices, there has been an evolution in the way attacker’s think and operate. The evolution of network capabilities and large-scale data tools in the cloud has helped foster the expansion of the IoT revolution. The growth of cloud and always-on availability to process IoT data has been largely adopted among manufacturing facilities, power plants, energy companies, smart buildings and other automated technologies such as those found in the automotive industry. But this has increased the attack surfaces for those that have adopted and implemented an army of possible vulnerable or already exploitable devices. The attackers are beginning to notice the growing field of vulnerabilities that contain valuable data.

In a way, the evolution of IoT attacks continues to catch many off guard, particularly the explosive campaigns of IoT based attacks. For years, experts have warned about the pending problems of a connected future, with IoT botnets as a key indicator, but very little was done to prepare for it.  Now, organizations are rushing to identify good traffic vs malicious traffic and are having trouble blocking these attacks since they are coming from legitimate sources.

As attackers evolve, organizations are still playing catch up. Soon after the world’s largest DDoS attack, and following the publication of the Mirai source code, began a large battle among criminal hackers for devices to infect. The more bots in your botnet, the larger the attack could be.  From the construction of a botnet to the actual launch an attack, there are several warning signs of an attack or pending attack.

As the industry began monitoring and tracking IoT based botnets and threats, several non-DDoS based botnets began appearing. Criminals and operators suddenly shifted focus and began infecting IoT devices to mine for cryptocurrencies or to steal user data. Compared to ransomware and large-scale DoS campaigns that stem from thousands of infected devices, these are silent attacks.

Unchartered Territory

In addition to the evolving problems, modern research lacks standardization that makes analyzing, detecting and reporting complicated. The industry is new, and the landscape keeps evolving at a rapid rate causing fatigue in some situations. For instance, sometimes researchers are siloed, and research is kept for internal use only which can be problematic for the researcher who wants to warn of the vulnerability or advise on how to stop an attack. Reporting is also scattered between tweets, white papers, and conference presentations. To reiterate how young this specialty is, my favorite and one of the most respected conferences dedicated to botnets, BotConf, has only met 6 times.

EOL is also going to become a problem when devices are still functional but not supported or updated. Today there are a large number of connected systems found in homes, cities and medical devices that at some point will no longer be supported by the manufacturers yet will still be functional. As these devices linger unprotected on the internet, they will provide criminal hackers’ a point of entry into unsecured networks. Once these devices pass EOL and are found online by criminals, they could become very dangerous for users depending on their function.

In a more recent case, Radware’s Threat Research Center identified criminals that were targeting DLink DSL routers in Brazil back in June. These criminals were found to be using outdated exploits from 2015. The criminals were able to leverage these exploits against vulnerable and unpatched routers 4 years later. The malicious actors attempted to modify the DNS server settings in the routers of Brazilian residents, redirecting their DNS request through a malicious DNS server operated by the hackers. This effectively allowed the criminals to conduct what’s called a man in the middle attack, allowing the hackers to redirect users to phishing domains for local banks so they could harvest credentials from unsuspecting users.

[You might also like: IoT Hackers Trick Brazilian Bank Customers into Providing Sensitive Information]

Attackers are not only utilizing old and unpatched vulnerabilities, but they are also exploiting recent disclosures. Back in May, vpnMentor published details about two critical vulnerabilities impacting millions of GPON gateways. The two vulnerabilities allowed the attackers to bypass authentication and execute code remotely on the targeted devices. The more notable event from this campaign was the speed at which malicious actors incorporated these vulnerabilities. Today, actors are actively exploiting vulnerabilities within 48 hours of the disclosure.

What Does the Future Hold?

The attack surface has grown to include systems using multiple technologies and communication protocols in embedded devices. This growth has also led to attackers targeting devices for a number of different reasons as the expansion continues. At first hackers, mainly DDoS’er would target IoT devices such as routers over desktops, laptops, and servers because they are always on, but as devices have become more connected and integrated into everyone’s life, attackers have begun exploring their vulnerabilities for other malicious activity such as click fraud and crypto mining. It’s only going to get worse as authors and operators continue to look towards the evolution of IoT devices and the connected future.

If anything is an indication of things to come I would say it would be found in the shift from Ransomware to crypto mining. IoT devices will be the main target for the foreseeable future and attackers will be looking for quieter ways to profit from your vulnerabilities. We as an industry need to come together and put pressure on manufacturers to produce secure devices and prove how the firmware and timely updates will be maintained. We also need to ensure users are not only aware of the present threat that IoT devices present but also what the future impact of these devices will be as they approach end of life. Acceptance, knowledge, and readiness will help us keep the networks of tomorrow secured today.

Download “When the Bots Come Marching In, a Closer Look at Evolving Threats from Botnets, Web Scraping & IoT Zombies” to learn more.

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Attack Types & VectorsSecurity

What Should You Do When Your Identity Has Been Compromised?

July 26, 2018 — by Daniel Smith0

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Almost every day, someone calls me to inquire about how to deal with a compromised identity. It has become so common that I have come to the point of just assuming everyone has had their identity compromised in some way, shape or form after the last few years of large-scale data breaches[1].

In 2018, the trend of large data breaches continues with electronic toymaker Vtech settling for $650,000 after suffering a data breach that resulted in exposed personal information about millions of children. Just in the last few months, major breaches targeting payment processing systems at Chili’s, Rail Europe and Macy’s have occurred, resulting in the exposure of customers’ credit card details such as card numbers, CCV codes, expiration dates and in some cases additional information like addresses, phone numbers and emails.

Attack Types & VectorsSecurity

Entering into the 1Tbps Era

March 8, 2018 — by Daniel Smith0

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Background

On February 27th Radware noticed an increase in activity on UDP port 11211. As other organizations began to disclose a trend in UDP amplified attacks over UDP port 11211, Radware’s ERT Research team and the Threat Research Center began preparing for the inevitable. With a Bandwidth Amplification Factor (BAF) ranging between 10,000x and 52,000x, we knew that due to this exposure and publication that attackers would be quick to adopt this method and could easily reach volumes well over 500Gbps.

Attack Types & VectorsSecurity

1984 to 2018: The Evolution of the Olympics

February 21, 2018 — by Daniel Smith0

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Change is inevitable and it happens in every industry. Those that evolve with change often help lead the transformation and revolutionize their domain. In 2016 we began to enter the era of digital transformation in our industry and changes have begun to take place that are revolutionizing the way we consume, collect and deliver data to every aspect of society. Along with these changes have we seen the creation of new businesses and opportunities centered around this evolution in connectivity. Digitization is creating growth opportunities and offering user experiences in ways we have never seen before.

Attack Types & VectorsSecurity

2018 Winter Olympics

January 31, 2018 — by Daniel Smith0

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As the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang approaches, Radware’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) and Threat Research Center turn their attention to the large crowds and target-rich environments created by high-profile events once again. With over 1.07 million tickets available for 102 events over 16 days, spread out across two clusters and containing a total of 12 venues, the crowds at the 2018 Winter Olympics will bring a large demand for connectivity. This enormous demand for connectivity and technology at the Winter Olympics will also pose a security risk for Olympic organizers, partners, sponsors, suppliers, service providers, athletes and attendees.