#cybersecurity | hacker | Can your network operator stop your smart washer from airing your dirty laundry?

Migration to 5G and
the better connectivity it promises has also brought with it an equally
burgeoning cybersecurity threat landscape. This, coupled with the proliferation
of IoT devices that are
fraught with inherent security flaws, means even bigger security woes for
consumers. It is, therefore, no wonder that Americans are more worried about cybercrime than violent
 such as
terrorism or being murdered. 

Today, savvy hackers
prey on our increased dependence on smart IoT devices and diligently try to
identify the weakest links among them to gain access to our networks, the connected
devices and the information stored within them. Home routers are among the more
vulnerable paths. This is because once a home router is compromised, every
device connected to it is at risk. Once the router is breached, cybercriminals can
easily gain access to every connected device, even the IoT appliances. Before
long, everything from your smart washer to your kid’s favorite teddy bears
could be collecting and delivering information about your life into the wrong

Unfortunately, there are too many ways in which
a home router can be compromised. To truly understand how to combat these
security risks and who to turn to for help, we first need to identify the
different ways in which hackers can infiltrate home routers.

Internal and External Threats to a Home Router

What makes home router
security challenging is that it can be compromised by cyber attacks coming from
outside the home network and also from devices within it. 

Today, one of the most
common methods used by hackers to gain access to a home router is to change the
router configuration. If an attacker is successful in doing so, they can not
only control the router’s behavior but also cause irreparable damage to the
router itself. 

The hacker can change
the DNS server used by the router and hijack traffic that was destined for
legitimate domains to impersonate those domains. By doing so, cybercriminals can
easily steal personal credentials, personal data and business data from every
device on the home network, opening consumers and businesses to an array of
cyber risks, including financial theft and ransomware.

Attackers who impersonate
the router management system can also change the router’s firmware and
introduce an array of new risks, including traffic/keystroke logging, a complete
lockdown of the router or even forcing the router and its connected devices –
even IoT devices – to join a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) bot attack.
In DDoS attacks, your network-connected devices can be instructed to send
requests to a targeted server, flooding the server with requests from
thousands, or even millions of other compromised devices, computers and phones,
making it impossible for the server to handle the load and process legitimate
requests. Although they do not damage or steal your data, these intrusive DDoS
requests can congest your precious bandwidth and cause your network to slow
down. Today, 87% of bots are IoT-related.

The Simplicity of Home Router Attacks

Typically, attackers
use weak, default passwords and open ports to infiltrate the router. Such
attacks allow cyber criminals to step into the home devices and use them as
they please. Attacks can also exploit the router’s Web interface from devices
within the home network, typically making use of weak authentication methods
that come with many routers.  

It also doesn’t help that most consumer IoT devices, especially cheaper
ones, lack built-in security, making them vulnerable to hacking and malware. Some
of these devices also have underlying operating systems and firmware making
them impossible to secure. On average, it takes under 18 seconds for an
attacker to manipulate these vulnerabilities once they start an attack. And
once the router is breached, the connected IoT devices, with weak, if any
security, are the most vulnerable targets.

Network Operators are Positioned
to Provide Effective Home Network Security

IoT devices cannot run
end-point security applications due to their light CPU and memory resources and
limited interfaces. That is why available end-point security solutions are ineffective
when it comes to IoT. While they address many security loopholes for computers
and mobile devices (assuming they are properly installed, configured and
regularly updated), they fail to address the security of more recent IoT
devices like connected toys, surveillance cameras, voice assistants, smart home
controllers or smart washers.

This forces us, the
consumers, to look elsewhere for comprehensive solutions. This is where network operators, such as ISPs,
fixed telecom providers and cable/satellite providers come in. Routers are part of the operators’ network and
are therefore, managed by them. As a result, they are best positioned to provide consumers with multi-layered home
network security without requiring the consumer to download and install
software on their end. 

Network operators can
offer protection to home routers with security software that is part of the
home router firmware and is supported by continuously updated threat databases
and intelligence from the operator’s network. Doing this ensures that the
router will only communicate with an approved list of destinations (white list)
and protects the router from unauthorized remote access. The network operator can
also monitor all the traffic (to and from the home) that flows through the
router for viruses, malware, phishing attacks, ransomware and other suspicious
traffic, and eliminate threats before they affect the consumer’s network and

Software products like
these can also protect home networks from Zero-day attacks using Machine
Learning and Artificial Intelligence. These solutions help consumers to be more
aware of vulnerable devices – for example, devices that use a default password. Network
operators can have a role in identifying such devices, notify the end user and
provide guidance about how to overcome such vulnerabilities. In addition,
highly vulnerable IoT devices are segregated from non-IoT devices so that a
compromised device cannot access other connected devices.

No one wants
to believe that the technologies that we rely on can be turned against us, possibly
with devastating financial consequences, social embarrassment, or both. But the
evolving IoT environment has already proven that we are headed in that
direction. Without effective protection against the damage that can be caused
by the devices in our own homes, we are effectively contributing to this almost
dystopian future.

The most
comprehensive way to ensure that all our vulnerable devices are monitored and
protected against cybercriminals is to work with the people we trust to handle
our data, our communications network providers. They now have access to the network-based
tools that make it possible for them to provide the cyber security that keeps
your smart washer from airing your dirty laundry.

Hagay Katz, Vice President – Cybersecurity at Allot

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