Yesterday’s major outage was brought to you by hacked IoT devices

Yesterday, like many others throughout the country, I awoke to the unpleasant fact that I couldn’t connect to Twitter or other sites that I might normally check in the morning.

Over the course of the day, we learned some facts about what had happened, and read some theories, but the bottom line was that one or more massive botnets using Internet-connected devices had hit Dyn, Inc. with a massive DDoS. As Steve Ragan reported on Salted Hash:

Once the attacks started, speculation led many to point the finger at IoT botnets, particular the Mirai botnet. The Mirai botnet has been linked to several massive DDoS attacks, leveraging consumer devices such as cameras, DVRs, and routers. The source code for Mirai was released to the public by its creator after a massive DDoS attack against journalist Brian Krebs.

Earlier this week, researchers scanning the internet for devices that would respond to Mirai located 11.3 million IP addresses with port 23 open.

As Flashpoint reported:

While Flashpoint has confirmed that Mirai botnets were used in the October 21, 2016 attack against Dyn, they were separate and distinct botnets from those used to execute the DDoS attacks against “Krebs on Security” and OVH. Earlier this month, “Anna_Senpai,” the hacker operating the large Mirai botnet used in the Krebs DDoS, released Mira’s source code online. Since this release, copycat hackers have used the malware to create botnets of their own in order to launch DDoS attacks.

It is unknown if the attacks against Dyn DNS are linked to the DDoS attacks against Krebs, OVH, or other previous attacks. Given the proliferation of the Mirai malware, the relationship between the ongoing Dyn DDoS attacks, previous attacks, and “Anna_Senpai” is unclear.

But perhaps the scariest quote I read yesterday was attributed to Allison Nixon of Flashpoint. Explaining that the botnet was built using DVRs and IP cameras made by a Chinese firm called XiongMai Technologies, whose products were then incorporated by downstream manufacturers and vendors, Nixon reportedly said:

“It’s remarkable that virtually an entire company’s product line has just been turned into a botnet that is now attacking the United States”

This can happen again. And again. Some suspect that the attack might have been a test run of something larger to come. It’s a scary thought that our country – who just imprudently announced that it was going to attack Russia as payback for what it believes are Russia’s attempts to interfere with our elections -may be unable to protect our own infrastructure from something like this.

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