Proofpoint Uncovers Internet of Things (IoT) Cyberattack

Proofpoint Uncovers Internet of Things (IoT) Cyberattack 
More Than 750,000 Phishing and SPAM Emails Launched From "Thingbots"
Including Televisions, Fridge 
SUNNYVALE, CA -- (Marketwired) -- 01/16/14 --  Proofpoint, Inc.,
(NASDAQ: PFPT), a leading security-as-a-service provider, has
uncovered what may be the first proven Internet of Things (IoT)-based
cyberattack involving conventional household "smart" appliances. The
global attack campaign involved more than 750,000 malicious email
communications coming from more than 100,000 everyday consumer
gadgets such as home-networking routers, connected multi-media
centers, televisions and at least one refrigerator that had been
compromised and used as a platform to launch attacks. As the number
of such connected devices is expected to grow to more than four times
the number of connected computers in the next few years according to
media reports, proof of an IoT-based attack has significant security
implications for device owners and Enterprise targets. 
Just as personal computers can be unknowingly compromised to form
robot-like "botnets" that can be used to launch large-scale
cyberattacks, Proofpoint's findings reveal that cyber criminals have
begun to commandeer home routers, smart appliances and other
components of the Internet of Things and transform them into
"thingbots" to carry out the same type of malicious activity. Cyber
criminals intent on stealing individual identities and infiltrating
enterprise IT systems have found a target-rich environment in these
poorly protected internet connected devices that may be more
attractive and easier to infect and control than PC, laptops, or
The attack that Proofpoint observed and profiled occurred between
December 23, 2013 and January 6, 2014, and featured waves of
malicious email, typically sent in bursts of 100,000, three times per
day, targeting Enterprises and individuals worldwide. More than 25
percent of the volume was sent by things that were not conventional
laptops, desktop computers or mobile devices; instead, the emails
were sent by everyday consumer gadgets such as compromised
home-networking routers, connected multi-media centers, televisions
and at least one refrigerator. No more than 10 emails were initiated
from any single IP address, making 
the attack difficult to block
based on location -- and in many cases, the devices had not been
subject to a sophisticated compromise; instead, misconfiguration and
the use of default passwords left the devices completely exposed on
public networks, available for takeover and use. 
"Bot-nets 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 division. "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 on-line and attackers find additional ways to
exploit them." 
While IT experts have long predicted security risks associated with
the rapidly proliferating Internet of Things (IoT), this is the first
time the industry has reported actual proof of such a cyber attack
involving common appliances -- but it likely will not be the last
example of an IoT attack. IoT includes every device that is connected
to the internet -- from home automation products including smart
thermostats, security cameras, refrigerators, microwaves, home
entertainment devices like TVs, gaming consoles to smart retail
shelves that know when they need replenishing and industrial
machinery -- and the number of IoT devices is growing enormously. IDC
predicts that more than 200 billion things will be connected via the
Internet by 2020(1). But IoT devices are typically not protected by
the anti-spam and anti-virus infrastructures available to
organizations and individual consumers, nor are they routinely
monitored by dedicated IT teams or alerting software to receive
patches to address new security issues as they arise. The result is
that Enterprises can't expect IoT-based attacks to be resolved at the
source; instead, preparations must be made for the inevitable
increase in highly distributed attacks, phish in employee inboxes,
and clicks on malicious links. 
"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 Michael Osterman,
principal analyst at Osterman Research. "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." 
About Proofpoint, Inc.
 Proofpoint Inc. (NASDAQ: PFPT) is a leading
security-as-a-service provider that focuses on cloud-based solutions
for threat protection, compliance, archiving & governance, and secure
communications. Organizations around the world depend on Proofpoint's
expertise, patented technologies and on-demand delivery system to
protect against phishing, malware and spam, safeguard privacy,
encrypt sensitive information, and archive and govern messages and
critical enterprise information. More information is available at 
Proofpoint is a trademark of Proofpoint, Inc. in the U.S. and other
countries. All other trademarks contained herein are the property of
their respective owners.  
(1) [source:] 
Media Contact: 
Orlando Debruce 
Proofpoint, Inc. 
Sarmishta Ramesh
Ogilvy Public Relations
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