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EMF Studies

16 February 2017

Over 170 Million Exposed IoT Devices in Major U.S. Cities

Researchers discover over 170 million exposed IoT devices in major US cities
by Charlie Osborne for Zero Day, 15 February 2017 

Webcams, medical devices, routers and databases are only some of the devices on show.

Researchers have discovered more than 178 million Internet of Things (IoT) devices visible to attackers in the ten largest US cities.

On Wednesday, researchers Numaan Huq and Stephen Hilt from Trend Micro revealed at the RSA conference in San Francisco, California, that many IoT devices are lacking basic security and are visible using services such as the Shodan search engine, which is used to discover devices which are accessible from the Internet.

While the research focuses on visibility rather than vulnerabilities, bugs, and security flaws, having millions of devices with open ports and viewing potential can leave them exposed to cyberattacks and use in DDoS attacks.

One such example is the Mirai botnet that harnessed millions of vulnerable IoT devices to launch debilitating attacks against online services last year.

The team found webcams, network-attached storage (NAS) devices, routers, printers, mobile devices and medical products, among others, which were visible through the search engine. In addition, Trend Micro says that the company found a "significant" number of web and email servers and databases.

Also: Internet of Things: CIOs are getting ready for the next big revolution | 16 questions CXOs should ask before starting an IoT project | The five industries leading the IoT revolution

Not only can these devices become compromised by cyberattackers looking to steal sensitive data, but exposed products could also be inadvertently leaking data such as personally identifiable information (PII) without the owner's knowledge through open directories on web servers, unauthenticated webcam feeds and exposed ICS Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs), among other systems.

There are a number of reasons why devices can end up exposed online. It may be that a device is hosted on incorrectly configured network infrastructure which allows direct device or system access, or it may be that devices are required to be connected to the web to function properly.

In addition, cyber assets may have remote access enabled for troubleshooting and general operation but are not secured properly.

These devices can end up being targeted by anyone, whether script kiddies, state-sponsored threat actors, hacktivists or business rivals. In today's society, knowledge is money, and whether they are targeted for the sake of stealing information to sell in the Dark Web or compromising larger systems to spy on competitors, today's often poorly-secured IoT devices have carved new paths for attackers to exploit.

The research team utilized scan data provided by Shodan for February 2016. In that time scale, a total of 178,032,637 records were generated from scanning 45,597,847 unique IPv4 and 256,516 unique IPv6 addresses. (Cloud service providers such as Amazon, Azure, Akamai, and CloudFlare were excluded from the results.)

Trend Micro then separated the data into different sets for the ten largest US cities by population -- New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, and San Jose.

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