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Christopher Young: Don't sleep on the Mirai botnet

This blog post is part of our Essential Guide: RSA 2017: Special conference coverage

SAN FRANCISCO — While much of the talk at this year’s RSA Conference has been about future IoT threats and new attacks, Intel Security’s Christopher Young urged attendees not forget the past — specifically, the Mirai botnet.

“We can’t think of the Mirai botnet in the past tense,” Young, senior vice president and general manager at Intel Security, said during his keynote Tuesday at RSA Conference 2017. “It’s alive and well today and recruiting new players.”

To illustrate his point, Young described how Intel Security CTO Steve Grobman and his team decided to test the theory that Mirai was still highly active and looking for more vulnerable IoT devices to infect.

“Our hypothesis was simple,” Young said. “Given the amount of connected or infected devices that are out there today, what’s the risk that a new, unprotected device can be coopted into the Mirai botnet? We wanted to know, how pervasive was this threat?”

To that end, Grobman’s team set up a honeypot, disguised as a DVR, on an open network. And in just over a minute, Young said, they found the DVR had been compromised by the Mirai botnet.

“It just puts a fine point on the problem,” Young said. “The Mirai botnet is alive and well, recruiting drones…that can be used for the next attack.”

As a result, Young said the industry needs to address the insecurities of connected devices within the home, which have become lucrative targets for Mirai and other types of IoT malware. He stressed that a combination of approaches are required to address these IoT threats, including consumer education, changes in security policies for device manufacturers and better protection measures from the infosec industry.

“The question I’d ask all of us in cybersecurity here at RSA is: ‘How many of us take the home into account when designing our cybersecurity architectures and when we provision our cybersecurity tools?’” Young asked the audience.

Young said the threat landscape has changed, and as a result so too must the mentality of security professionals. “Today, the target has now become the weapon,” he said, referring to connected devices. “The game has changed on us yet again.”

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