Is The Internet of Things Changing the Game for Ransomware?

Is IoT opening up opportunities for ransomware to get into gadgets we never thought it could? What are industries doing to protect all of our smart devices?

By Max Burkhalter
November 7, 2022
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When we think of ransomware, we often think of malicious attacks targeting our computers. As the Internet of Things (IoT) expands to include smart versions of items that haven't previously been digitally connected, there's a real possibility that these threats apply to wearable devices, earbuds and other gear – and the apps that control them. This could potentially lead to serious security issues as many of these devices and applications store endless amounts of sensitive information and track internet behavior that might not be encrypted or password protected.

Where is ransomware now?

Ransomware is a type of cyberattack in which the attacker gains access to a computer or data stored onit, locks it down and demands money in exchange for giving its owner or user access again. It's a billion-dollar 'industry' amounting to about 4 billion detections in 2022 to date. According to SonicWall, attacks in Q3 2022 were at the lowest they've been in over a year, yet they still amount to a large number. And, as the scope of ransomware continues to evolve and grow with technology, there's no predicting how exactly ransomware will change.

"With expanding attack surfaces, growing numbers of threats and the current geopolitical landscape, it should be no surprise that even the most seasoned IT professional can feel overwhelmed," said Sonicwall CEO Bob Vankirk in an interview.

2021 was a wild year for ransomware attacks on U.S. corporations. Notorious cybercriminal hacking group DarkSide was reportedly paid $4.4 million each by Colonial Pipeline and Brenntag and a whopping $11 million was paid to REvil by JBS. The cost that these companies pay to these RaaS (ransomware as a service) criminals to gain access back to their systems and the clean-up of their reputation, database and so on after the fact is enough to bankrupt the strongest of organizations. Yes, today ransomware clearly highly profitable – for the attacker.

Next-gen ransomware is closer than we think

Researchers at Forescout found a path by which cyber attackers could use ransomware to infiltrate IoT-enabled devices. They call it their proof of concept: R4IoT. It's believed that once the malware gains access to an IT network via IoT devices, it migrates laterally through it, deploying ransomware and cryptominers along with data exfiltration, before potentially disrupting critical business operations through operational technology (OT). It's the next generation of ransomware.

Essentially, no longer are corporations threatened by an accidentally opened email. Now, an employee wearing a smartwatch could hypothetically open the doors for hackers to gain complete access and control of an otherwise secure network. R4IoT targets wearable technology and there's real potential that it can lead to even more successful attacks. These tests were completed in a controlled lab environment by scientists that may not be up to speed on the latest cybercriminal hacking techniques. As the number of IoT devices grows, so do the opportunities for RaaS to take advantage of the lack of cybersecurity yet to be attached.

Trust your IoT devices to Perle

Perle can ensure that every single device  – even those you might not have considered – is properly connected to your corporate network and appropriately protected. From industrial ethernet switches and fiber media converters, Perle can meet the connectivity and security needs of your organization.


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