Attack of the Toasters

A few weeks ago, you might have heard the story about a widespread cyber-attack that shut down many popular websites. An attack that seemed to roll it’s way across the country, using whatever unprotected internet connected device it could find.

The hack used the virus Mirai which focused a DOS (denial of service) attack on the company Dyn. They are listed as an Internet performance management company. One of the things they do is route traffic. If you type in an address, they make sure that you land where you intended to go.

The attack used unprotected internet connected devices to flood Dyn with request. Baby monitors, Closed circuit cameras, DVR’s and toasters.

This is an excerpt from a story by Andrew McGill about his experiment in putting an unprotected virtual toaster out as virtual bait.

Andrew McGill, a reporter at The Atlantic, devised an experiment to find out how vulnerable our devices are to hackers. He built a virtual Internet-connected toaster, put it online and waited to see how quickly it would take for hackers to attempt to breach it. They found him much faster than he expected.

“Well, I had talked to some experts, and I was fully expecting maybe a week, maybe never, certainly not less than a day,” McGill told NPR’s Ari Shapiro. “But it came a lot sooner. It was 41 minutes. [The second attempt was] within 10 or 15 minutes [and the third was] another 10 or 15.”

Andrew’s toaster was put out there as bait for the sole purpose of fishing for a hacker. He goes on to say that the average home user should have a layer of protection from their internet modem/router.

Older modems/routers are more susceptible to intrusion. A few things that every home user should do to protect themselves.

  1. Use a strong password on your modem/router. The password should have a minimum of 12 characters. Use Numbers, Symbols, Upper Case Letters and Lower Case Letters. Use a mix of different types of characters to make the password harder to crack.
  2. Update the device firmware. Software updates should be familiar enough to us all by now. My phone just did one yesterday. We don’t always think about that router we got off the shelf at Best Buy, it needs attention too. Log into the admin console of the device. Many modems/routers will have a section dedicated to updating. Refer to the manual or ask a professional if you aren’t able update the device.

NPR Story

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