A safe and secure digital environment is an evergreen dream of the present computing era. Even the routine activities of day to day life can’t be imagined without digital assistance these days. The digital dependence is increasing rapidly, and so is the cyber-crime.

A cyber-attack has many different forms, and botnet is one among the top listed ones and is also regarded as the severe threat call to the IoT ecosystem, which is the backbone of digital communication. The bitter truth is that most of the IoT devices can be easily converted into IoT botnets and can be used as cyber weapons to destroy or break the IoT ecosystem.

What is a botnet?

Let us begin with understanding the term BOTNET. A Botnet is the fusion of two different words, robot and network. We all know that a Robot is the synonym of automation. So, a group of robots or any automated code in a web of systems to exploit the IoT environment is referred to as a Bot (Zombie Computers) or Botnet. With the help of command and control services that use different security protocols, these Botnets took over many forms from the traditional IRC to the recent advancements.

Botnets are always referred to as be a group of malware-infected systems controlled by a botmaster remotely and are targeted to implant the malicious code into different devices like computers, internet devices, mobiles, laptops, etc. The malicious attacks include the denial of service, data theft, unauthorized access, and send spam data. Client-Server Model and Peer-to-Peer Model are the two types of Botnet architectures identified to date. The existence of these Botnets has been discovered in the year 2000 itself, i.e., more than a decade ago, and the number of botnet attacks is increasing in a lightening manner whereas the countermeasures improvement is lagging behind.

How botnet attacks impact the IoT ecosystem?

The botnet has different attacking modes, and each way of attack has a different impact on the system. One of the most common attacks is DDoS.

Distributed Denial of Service

Ever wonder why your calls are not connected in the first attempt during New Year’s Eve?

Why are your tickets not booked during the high thrust seasons in any travel platform?

The answer is simple; the server of the respective software is loaded heavily with a large number of users. Hence the system slows down occurs or you may have to wait for a significant amount of time for the software to be responsive again.

Similarly, when portrayed in a negative sense, in DDoS, the botnet tries to overload the target system by hitting the server continually with fake accounts or anonymous accounts which affects the system’s response timely initially and finally a breakdown occurs causing the authorized and other regular customers to face the accessing issues. This also leads to the closing of service temporarily by the affected systems or networks.  The frequency of DDoS attack differs from one protocol to another protocol and also how long the system can be in infected mode is also different for each attack.

Let us consider the trending Mirai Botnet example to understand better about the subject.

Mirai has awakened the sleeping phase of security threats to a new model and has been one of the most hitting IoT threat with unexpected results. With the help of Mirai, hackers have created the spinoffs of various original malware and started attacking the target systems.

Open Telnet ports were the main cause for the rise of Mirai Botnet as they helped to login to various software with fake and default passwords causing a DDoS attack.

  • The Mirai Botnet is one such malware that can convert the LINUX networking devices into remotely controlled Bots and can trigger the DDOS easily.
  • The attack on Brian Krebs’ website, Dyn Cyber-attack and the OVH attack are some of the DDOS Mirai Botnet attacks

How to secure and safe-guard an IoT ecosystem?

The only way to protect and prevent cyber-attacks is to act alert. Especially when coming to IoT devices and networks, every single neglected issue can turn out as a weapon against you. The scope of the IoT ecosystem is so vast that the security methods should be altered and improved for every different type of device and network we use. Hence, after in-depth research and understanding, the following countermeasures can help you to overcome the Botnet attacks and also helps to immune your IoT ecosystem better than ever.

  • A thorough understanding of Botnets, their impact, and training the resources accordingly can help to identify and prevent the botnet attacks easily and early
  • A robust network must be designed which doesn’t allow the C&C protocols easily
  • Use only trusted IoT devices, internet connection, and other networking operations
  • Early detection of malware
  • Stay-Update with security patches
  • Monitoring the network behavior closely
  • Anti –Bot mechanisms must be installed and updated regularly

Of all the above, Early detection of malware is the most important thing which enables you to react to the Botnet attack quickly before it entirely rules your system. A well-defined and secured website and its services is always a prior choice to all the customers and clients.