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New ‘BrickerBot’ malware attack kills unsecured Internet of Things devices

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is at the heart of many modern technology devices, not the least of which are the increasingly popular smart home components that unlock our doors and control our heating and lighting. The security of IoT devices is, therefore, paramount if these increasingly ubiquitous devices are going to bring more benefit than cost.

Unfortunately, IoT has been the source of significant malware attacks in recent months, including the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that took down a large swatch of the internet in October 2016. Now, a new piece of malware, dubbed BrickerBot, is in the wild and targeting IoT device running the open-source Linux operating system, as Readwrite reports.

According to security firm Radware, whose honeypot was used to discover the malware, BrickerBot works in similar fashion to Mirai in that both programs attempt to leverage the tendency for users to neglect to change the factory default username and password combo that ships on IoT devices. The primary difference between the two is that while Mirai aims to take over and add them to botnets with the express purpose of conducting DDoS attacks, BrickerBot — as its name implies — simply wants to kill the devices instead. This kind of attack is called Permanent Denial of Service (PDoS), and it’s apparently becoming increasingly popular.

Because they both rely on remote access into unsecured devices, both BrickerBot and Mirai can most easily be combatted by simply changing the default username and password and by turning off Telnet remote access wherever possible. Radware notes a few other highly technical responses to BrickerBot that technology staff can use but that are likely beyond the means of the typical smart home customer.

While Mirai is of greater concern on a widespread basis given its ability impact the entire internet, BrickerBot can cause some serious inconvenience to casual users by leaving their devices dead and unusable. Of even greater concern, however, is the potential impact on commercial concerns, where losing hundreds of IoT devices that are used for critical infrastructure could be crippling. For those organizations, taking Radware’s more technical advice into consideration would be highly recommended.

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