New Reaper IoT botnet is a lot smarter than Mirai, and that’s scary

27 Oct 2017

Image: amophoto_au/Shutterstock

This week in IoT, Reaper threatens millions of connected devices, while smart cities are being warned not to leave themselves equally vulnerable.

There was some major developments for Dublin this week in the internet of things (IoT) space with news that Vodafone is to turn the docklands area into a narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) testbed.

Working with Dublin City Council, Vodafone will be running the network as part of the Smart Dublin initiative.

Both organisations are also creating a €50,000 innovation fund aimed at start-ups and researchers to test smart city technologies on the NB-IoT platform, which will be administered by Smart Dublin and DCU Alpha.

Among the earliest deployments of NB-IoT will be smart rubbish bins that will alert local authorities once they are full to improve the city’s cleanliness.

Reaper botnet threatens hundreds of millions of IoT devices

The Mirai botnet is still firmly lodged in the memory of cybersecurity researchers, but fear is already growing over another new botnet, Reaper.

According to cybersecurity firm BullGuard, Reaper has already found itself on more than 1m devices worldwide but now threatens as many as 378m.

Reaper uses actual software hacking techniques to break into devices, evolving it beyond the October 2016 Mirai IoT botnet, which exploited weak or default passwords on impacted IP cameras and internet routers.

BullGuard’s CEO Paul Lipman has warned that unpreparedness is leaving many IoT devices and their owners vulnerable to devastating distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

“The industry must wake up and address this issue,” he said. “Taking down websites may seem relatively innocuous, but Reaper has the potential to cause massive amounts of damage, including crashing important online services.

“These are very real and plausible scenarios, yet those responsible for security seem to have gone to sleep.”

Smart cities need smart solutions, or face dire consequences

Also echoing security concerns this week was Paul Ward, international sales director of ETELM, a manufacturer of advanced mission-critical communications systems.

However, in his example, it is our increasingly smarter cities and the critical systems being built and tested through technologies such as NB-IoT and 5G that are at risk.

“We are living through extraordinary times where rapid technological advancements are being accomplished around the globe,” Ward said at the recent Broadband World Forum in Berlin.

“However, critical communications solution providers need to ensure that legacy and pre-existing infrastructure can keep pace with the new demands being placed on them, while also future-proofing new solutions and infrastructures to guarantee the challenges of today are not replicated in the future.”

He added that with multiple different standards of technology out there, a greater amount of open-source technology will be needed to reduce the users’ reliance on single vendors and increase functionality and competition.

IoT development dominates thinking of Japanese government

The current Japanese government, under prime minister Shinzo Abe, has given priority developmental focus on the technologies of IoT and artificial intelligence as it tries not to get left behind by continental and global rivals.

According to the Financial Times, Japan has developed what it calls the “vending machine problem” whereby it has millions of vending machines offering a whole range of services, but as few as 100 are actually connected online.

The industry trade association responsible for them is now saying that companies working in this space are missing out on vast quantities of data that could prove useful both for themselves and marketers.

One proposed plan will see Tokyo contributing financially to start-ups and researchers to develop semiconductor technology to drive IoT’s development in Japan.

China’s 5G roll-out is well underway

China seems to be on course to lead the world in 5G connectivity, with news from the country’s media that its second phase of national testing is set to be concluded by the end of this year.

According to Wen Ku, director of the telecom department at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, it will then start its third round of testing next year with expectation that by June 2018, it will introduce the first global 5G standard.

By 2020, China’s 5G network will be commercialised, which would make it one of the largest markets for the next generation of connectivity.

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic