The network of an undisclosed university in the United States was recently disrupted by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks caused by targeting Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
An official with the university discovered more than 5,000 IoT devices connected to the school’s network were manipulated to continually search for seafood through DNS requests.
The same search request issued continuously by over 5,000 devices forced the university’s Internet to slow and ultimately shut down.
Cybercriminals had reportedly infected thousands of IoT devices connected to the University’s network with malware, including lamp posts and vending machines. The malicious software enabled the attackers to leverage the infected devices as a botnet.
Officials claim the attackers were able to obtain control of the devices by using brute-force attacks and guessing default passwords that were left unchanged. The attackers then changed the passwords to lock out IT university officials from regaining control of the IoT devices.
IT officials, however, were able to determine the new device password by examining the commands received via the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that were not using SSL to encrypt the communications.
The IT officials then changed the passwords and shut off IoT access to the network during that period. The researchers warn users should always make strong, unique passwords for all of their devices to mitigate against such cyberattacks. Users should also ensure their devices are up-to-date with the latest software and firmware.