The mobile networking firm’s Threat Intelligence Report for 2019 is is based on data collected from its NetGuard Endpoint Security product, which it says monitors network traffic from over 150 million devices globally.
It revealed that botnet activity represented 78% of malware detection events in communication service provider (CSP) networks this year, more than double the 33% seen in 2016.
Similarly, IoT bots now make up 16% of infected devices on CSP networks, a near-five-fold increase from 3.5% a year ago.
“Cyber-criminals are switching gears from the traditional computer and smartphone ecosystems and now targeting the growing number of vulnerable IoT devices that are being deployed,” said Kevin McNamee, director of Nokia’s Threat Intelligence Lab. “You have thousands of IoT device manufacturers wanting to move product fast to market and, unfortunately, security is often an afterthought.”
This is a threat that first came to light with the Mirai attacks of 2016, when the infamous IoT malware sought out and infected tens of thousands of smart devices protected only by factory default passwords.
That ended up launching some of the largest DDoS attacks ever seen, although Nokia also called out crypto-mining as a potential new use of IoT botnets made up of compromised smartphones and web browsers.
“Cyber-criminals have increasingly smart tools to scan for and to quickly exploit vulnerable devices, and they have new tools for spreading their malware and bypassing firewalls. If a vulnerable device is deployed on the internet, it will be exploited in a matter of minutes,” McNamee warned.
IoT adoption is expected to accelerate with 5G, potentially exposing even more devices to cyber risk, Nokia claimed.
Yossi Naar, co-founder at Cybereason, argued that attackers can also use compromised IoT endpoints to move into corporate networks and high-value servers.
“Simply put, security needs to be a primary design consideration, as fundamental as any other measure of performance,” he added. “There should be a focus on tight mechanisms for strong authentication and the minimization of the potential attack surface. It’s a fundamental design philosophy that responsible companies have, but it’s not a reflex for all companies — yet.”
For more information, listen again to our webinar with Nokia, featuring insight from HardenStance founder and principal analyst Patrick Donegan and Kevin McNamee from Nokia’s Threat Intelligence Lab, on the report’s findings around IoT, crypto-coins and smart devices.