You know a technology trend has arrived when the hooligans start hacking it. While many of us have been busy debating the real-world applications and financial possibilities of the so-called Internet of Things, hackers have evidently been busy turning our cadre of newly-connected stuff against us.
In what is being called the first proven internet of things-based cyberattack, spammers managed to launch a holiday salvo of 750,000 malicious emails from a botnet of more than 100,000 consumer "smart" gadgets - from home-networking routers and connected multi-media centres to televisions and at least one refrigerator.
Not a typo. The fridge is selling generic Viagra on the side.
The Attack of the Appliances began around 23 December and lasted through 6 January, according to security service provider Proofpoint, which observed and detailed the incident.
In that period, waves of malicious email were transmitted globally in bursts of 100,000 messages three times per day. More than a quarter of the messages were sent by connected gadgets other than your traditional PC or mobile device, Proofpoint researchers found.
The most insidious part: No more than 10 spam messages came from any single IP address, so anti-spam strategies that rely on blocking by location are mostly useless.
Lest you think this incident was the result of some sophisticated hackery, the fact is most of the compromised "things" were simply badly configured and exposed on the internet in all of their default-password glory.
"Botnets are already a major security concern and the emergence of ‘thingbots' may make the situation much worse," said David Knight, general manager of Proofpoint's information security unit.
"Many of these devices are poorly protected at best, and consumers have virtually no way to detect or fix infections when they do occur. Enterprises may find distributed attacks increasing as more and more of these devices come online and attackers find additional ways to exploit them."
That's a serious problem for a world that is expected to include 200bn internet-connected things by 2020, according to IDC.
Cisco, which is fond of calling the emerging space the Internet of Everything, claims the market for hyper-connected devices will top $19trn in the next eight years.
Those heady figures could be at risk, however, if security gets short shrift and the devices become a largely unpatched, unmonitored playground for the hackerazzi.
"The Internet of Things holds great promise for enabling control of all of the gadgets that we use on a daily basis. It also holds great promise for cybercriminals who can use our homes' routers, televisions, refrigerators and other internet-connected devices to launch large and distributed attacks," said Osterman Research analyst Michael Osterman.
"Internet-enabled devices represent an enormous threat because they are easy to penetrate, consumers have little incentive to make them more secure, the rapidly growing number of devices can send malicious content almost undetected, few vendors are taking steps to protect against this threat, and the existing security model simply won't work to solve the problem."
For solution providers who have been struggling to get a handle on a business model that makes the Internet of Things look something like a profitable venture, there may be some good news in the gallows humor of malicious thermostats and toaster ovens.
Clearly security is one of the key value-added services areas being mentioned as an opportunity.
An incident like this should have businesses taking a hard look at their security strategies and posture when deploying any new network devices.
How are they exposed? What parts of the enterprise do they access? Have they been properly configured and patched? Did you change the bloody default password?
Moreover, the difficulty of addressing such security shortcomings at the source in the way we use the internet of things today, all organisations need to look at the state of their current defences to determine if they are sufficiently prepared to ward off a new wave of distributed attacks from devices we always considered pretty benign.
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