IoT botnet highlights the dangers of default passwords

The Mirai botnet used IoT devices to launch a massive DDOS attack

A botnet responsible for a massive DDOS (distributed denial-of-service) attack was created thanks to weak default usernames and passwords found in internet-connected cameras and DVRs.

The Mirai botnet grabbed headlines last month for taking down the website of cybersecurity reporter Brian Krebs with a huge DDOS attack. Unlike most botnets, which rely on infected PCs, this one used IoT devices to target its victims.

It turns out the botnet was specifically designed to scan the internet for poorly secured products like cameras and then access them through easily guessable passwords like "admin" or "12345." Last Friday, the botnet's maker released its source code, and security experts have noticed it's built to try a list of more than 60 combinations of user names and passwords.

Those combinations were enough to allow the botnet to spread to 380,000 devices, according to its maker, who posted the source code on HackForums.

Security experts are warning that more botnets like Mirai will appear unless the hardware industry can move away from default passwords.

"There has to be some kind of mandate to make these devices more secure or require a password change once installed", said Tim Matthews, a vice president at security firm Imperva.

Researchers have long been pointing out the problems with internet-connected appliances and how they're often built without security in mind. The Mirai botnet further highlights the problem, according to Matthews.

His company has been noticing an uptick in DDOS attacks coming from botnets that are powered by smart devices. These botnets work by infecting the products with malware and enslaving them under the hacker's control.     

"We've seen this trend building since mid last year," he said. A prime example of devices that are susceptible to infection is internet-connected security cameras, which are often installed by resellers but never updated.

"One mistake that the manufacturers make is that they allow remote access to these devices," he said. "In some cases, a single camera will have 15 different infections."

As for the Mirai botnet, it appears to have been relying on cameras from a Chinese company called Dahua and from DVRs from an unknown vendor, according to internet backbone provider Level 3 Communications, which has been monitoring the DDOS attacks. 

Dahua didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Krebs has posted a list of products possibly susceptible to the Mirai botnet, and it's quite long. He created the list by looking up the default usernames and passwords on Google and then matching them to products. 

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Kan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?