These days it’s not uncommon for our lives and our businesses to be managed almost entirely online. From our communications and calendars to our thermostats and security systems, while the internet may have made us more efficient, it has also made us more vulnerable. And these days, the safety of our networks and databases are never guaranteed – a lesson that was made abundantly clear after last week’s massive cyberattack.
Weak Usernames, Passwords Are (Once Again) To Blame
As most of you already know, some of your favorite websites took a hit last week. And as much as you may have wanted to take to Twitter to vent your frustration – you couldn’t. So, what happened?
Once again, weak usernames and passwords were to blame although, unlike in the past, individual users weren’t the primary culprits. According to United States security researchers, hackers utilized common electronic devices, such as DVRs, webcams and digital recorders, to execute a complex internet-wide attack. The massive distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attack was made possible thanks to weak default usernames and passwords found in the internet-connected hardware.
This attack was the result of a Mirai botnet attack, which is specifically designed to scan the internet for poorly secured products and then access them through easily guessable passwords like “admin” or “12345.” Earlier this month, after security experts gained access to the botnet’s source code, which was released to the hacker community, it was discovered that the botnet was designed to try a list of more than 60 combinations of user names and passwords. Officials with Level 3 Communications, a provider of internet backbone services, estimates this recent attack was also the result of a Mirai malware attack that infected more than 500,000 devices.
Unlike botnets that typically rely on PCs, Mirai malware targets internet-connected devices that have weak default passwords, making them easy to infect, said Michel Kan a correspondent for PCWorld. More botnets like Mirai will appear unless the hardware industry can move away from default passwords.
Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology Co Ltd, a Chinese electronics component manufacturer, said because its products inadvertently played a role in last week’s cyberattack the manufacturer will recall some of the products it sold in the U.S. The Chinese company said the security flaws associated with its products were patched in September 2015 and that its devices now ask customers to change the default password when used for the first time. However, products running older versions of the firmware are still vulnerable. Users with older versions of the company’s products can still protect themselves by updating their product’s firmware and change the default username and passwords or simply take their products offline by disconnecting them from the internet.
Protect Your Devices
Do you own a device that connects to the internet? Take the following precautions to prevent a hacker from infiltrating your system:
- Check for updates regularly.
- The first time you pull your device out of the package, change the password.
- Disable features and services that you don’t need or won’t use.
- Turn off your devices when they aren’t in use.
- Pay close attention to your privacy settings.
Protect Your Cloud-Based Data
A lot of times, individuals and businesses will consider cloud-based data storage solutions to be more secure, but the way I see it, if it’s online, it can be hacked – regardless of how many safety protocols you may have in place. Criminals continue to look for new ways to infiltrate our online devices therefore, it is reasonable to assume, that they are looking for cracks in the cloud-based security solutions as well. This article will give you more insight into the risks you may be taking on if you were to move all your data to the cloud.
For more information and insight about protecting yourself online, read my comprehensive whitepaper: Cybercrime: The Invisible Threat That Haunts Your Business.
By Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)
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