Tag: IoT

Preparing for the Tempest: SonicWall’s 2020 Cyber Threat Report

The Past is Prologue

As Shakespeare once wrote, “the past is prologue.” When it comes to cybersecurity, knowing the recent past – and trends in the threat landscape – is vital to protecting your network against the latest and greatest hazards. And so the past – as in 2019 – is prologue in the 2020 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report. The report is prepared by SonicWall’s Capture Labs threat research team. It provides an in depth look at the cyber threats of 2019 to help businesses, governments, and organizations of all sizes better prepare to stop the threats of 2020. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights of the Cyber Threat Report.

SonicWall 2020 Cyber Threat Report

Ransomware Shifts Strategy

The good news: Ransomware attacks were down in 2019 – 6% in fact – from the all-time high recorded in 2018. There were a grand total of 187.9 million last year. The less good news? Well, you probably saw it in the news. There was an increase in targeted attacks, hitting government networks, power grids, and even schools & hospitals. Attackers more and more are focusing on quality over quantity, looking for targets that are most likely to pay rather than blanketing all corners of the connected world.

Just how many of these targets were hit last year? It’s probably under-reported because victims can be hesitant to reveal a breach. But more than 140 state and local governments were successfully targeted for the year, and over 600 schools and hospitals – just through September. The Cyber Threat Report warns, however, that the average individual can still be a target, too. Researchers note that ransomware operators are more willing than ever to have a dialog and negotiate with their victims to get a payout. They’ll even use things like sextortion scams, a form of blackmail that suggests the attacker has compromising information or images that they’ll release unless the victim pays.

IoT Malware on the Rise

You down with I-o-T? Yeah, probably! While internet of things devices are hardly Naughty By Nature, they’re becoming more and more ubiquitous. As in, if you’re reading this, there’s virtually zero chance you don’t use some type of IoT device(s) in your everyday life. But with that popularity comes greater exposure. In 2019, the Cyber Threat Report indicates there were 34.3 million IoT malware attacks. Oh, and those attack numbers – much like the number of IoT devices – are trending up.

Security has not initially been a priority for most IoT device manufacturers. With no standards in place, devices commonly come with out-of-the-box vulnerabilities like weak or hard-coded passwords, unsecured interfaces, and a lack of secure update mechanisms. An otherwise secure network with vulnerable IoT devices may be leaving a backdoor wide open for hackers to access data.

Encrypted Threats Continue Growth

While transport layer security (TLS) and its predecessor, secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption standards are largely meant for good, bad actors are always looking to spoil the fun. Encryption when used for wholesome purposes ensures privacy and protects data. But hackers use this encryption against a network, sending malicious packers to obfuscate malware files. That can get them through a network’s standard defenses. The Cyber Threat Report shows our aforementioned bad actors sent 3.7 million malware attacks over TLS/SSL traffic in 2019, 27.3% more than the year prior. Why is this technique on the rise? Many firewall appliances don’t have the capability or power to detect, inspect, and stop attacks sent through encrypted traffic.

Defenses Are Improving, Too

Most of this Cyber Threat Report analysis is probably giving you anxiety, so let’s end on a positive note. The forces for good are continually improving their (which also means your) defenses against these hazards. Security advances include faster identification – and in turn faster mitigation – of zero-day threats. For instance, SonicWall is able to ID never-before-seen malware variants about 2 days before malware repository VirusTotal receives samples. Also noted are advancements made in deep memory inspection technology to combat side-channel attacks among others. In SonicWall’s case, that technology is a part of its Real-Time Deep Memory Inspection (RTDMI) engine. You can get a taste of it with a new SOHO 250 or TZ350 bundle. The report additionally spotlights growing momentum of perimeter-less security as traditional boundaries go by the wayside. This includes the introduction of the secure access service edge (SASE), which would combine software and service-based security solutions.

Want to Learn More?

Visit our Threat Dictionary to get updated on some of the latest cyber threats out there today. Shop for SonicWall security solutions like firewalls, web application firewalls, and cloud app security to name a few. And get your very own copy of the full 2020 Cyber Threat Report to dig into all the nitty gritty details yourself.

Secrets of the Mysterious & Ubiquitous Internet of Things

Without peeking, tell me the number of Internet-connected devices in the room with you. How about in the whole building? In 2017, it’s likely that the building itself is connected to the Internet. Whether it be through mobile-controlled thermostats, security cameras, or the traffic lights right outside your window, you live in a reality in which an Internet-capable device is likely within a few steps of you at any given time. This is the Internet of Things. And while the name doesn’t seem all that inspired (the term was coined by Kevin Ashton of MIT’s Auto-ID Center in 1999), it describes a nebulous world of Wi-Fi, RFID, and microcode that affects just about every transaction and interaction throughout your day.

As years pass, the Internet of Things grows. When an app is launched allowing you to refill your dog’s food bowl while you’re at the office, the Internet of Things grows. When cutting-edge garden tech allows you to water your herbs from halfway around the globe, the Internet of Things grows.

It is important to understand, though, that the IoT is not Skynet biding time to build its cyberspace army. The IoT is used to automate inventory and improve communications between people. It assists in search and rescue operations and monitor heart implants. Nonetheless, for all of the good that the IoT is capable of, it nurtures growing security risks as well.

So What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things is an umbrella term describing the vast array of Internet-accessing devices that we interact with on a daily basis. This includes mobile devices, vehicles, buildings, thermostats, home appliances, street cameras, air purifiers, refrigerators, childrens’ toys, and much more. Objects that possess sensors, software, or microchips are known as cyber-physical systems and likely to fall under the IoT umbrella. The concept is hard to wrap your head around because it reaches across every industry and every channel one could imagine.

The great fear in the cyber security world in regards to the IoT is a potential for hackers to remotely access and control devices over networks shared by the IoT.

Welcome Aboard: An IoT Metaphor

Let’s picture the Internet of Things as a cruise liner. The klaxons sound in response to an engine room breach–in the case of the IoT, a hacker; in the case of our cruise liner, a hole in the haul—and seamen begin to combat the leak.

Water-tight hatches are sealed between various compartments of the ship, ensuring that water coming in through the engine room is unable to spread into neighboring compartments. However, in our IoT analogy, there’s an open pipe running from the engine room to the officers’ quarters because the sailors requested soda fountains. Another pipe runs from the engine room to the storage compartments because water is needed to humidify the air. A third set of pipes runs between the engine room and the ballast compartments for regulating buoyancy. Even though the maintenance team has sealed off all the main hatches between compartments, the leak continues to spread through the innumerable channels made possible by the demands of the crew.

Issues of IoT Vulnerability in the Real World





  • FBI Announcement for IoT Toys – On Monday the 17th, the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a consumer notice to parents warning them of the threats associated with Internet-connected toys. As interactive toys grow in popularity, toys are being made with sensors, microchips, data storage, microphones, cameras, and more. The FBI warns that these types of toys may be used to compromise the privacy of children. The Public Service Announcement can be found here.
  • IoT Security is Expensive – The costs associated with IoT security are rapidly growing to keep pace with the sheer size of the Internet of Things and the ripe potential for bad guys to exploit it. According to a white paper published by Altman Vilandrie & Co., the IoT is projected to encompass 18,000,000,000 devices by 2022. That’s more than double the number of human beings on the planet. Altman Vilandrie also estimated that spending on IoT security will outgrow spending on “traditional” cyber security at a rate of nearly two and a half times.
  • Passenger Drones Over Dubai – And the award for “Most Terrifying Place to Learn About IoT Breaches” goes to… the inside of a passenger drone hovering hundreds of feet above the ground. Dubai has announced its intention to implement passenger-carrying quadcopters as exasperatingly luxurious taxis in the summer of 2018. Passengers will have no manual controls, relying instead on Internet-connected GPS to deliver them at their destination. Keep an eye out for this new cyber security threat to become a special effects whirlwind shoehorned into the next James Bond film!





Optimizing Security for the IoT

  • Disable UPnP – Many firewalls and routers possess a feature known as Universal Plug and Play (UPnP). This setting allows a device to plug into a network and configure itself, making it more convenient and mobile. However, this extra versatility comes at a price: security experts believe that UPnP may allow exploits to automatically jump from the IoT to the network during configuration. Once your appliance is positioned, it is a great idea to disable UPnP. Learn more about UPnP from our friends at Sophos.
  • Strengthen Your Passwords – Yes, this is the same advice we give to those seeking to optimize their more traditional cyber security. However, the IoT carries with it further complications in this arena: in many cases when one wants to set a password, they are presented with a numpad and asked to enter a 4-digit PIN. This can make it difficult to secure your devices with strong enough passwords. We suggest that you create a unique password for each device. Yes, it will mean that you have a lot more passwords to keep track of, but it does protect your data in case of a breach.
  • Patch Your Firmware – Wow, I think we’ve heard this one before too! Again we cannot stress enough the importance of keeping your security patches and firmware up to date. If you dissect most major cyber attacks, you will discover over and over and over that the affected demographics tends to gravitate around those who shrug and ignore the latest updates. In the IoT world, firmware may also sometimes be referred to as “microcode.”
  • Segregate IoT Devices to Your Guest Network – Many businesses now provide guest networks that remain overtly separate from their private network. Doing so provides the peace of mind that some schmuck on the street isn’t going to walk into your lobby, connect to your wireless network, and spread his nasty bugs around your system. If possible, try to quarantine as many IoT devices onto this guest network as possible. This way if a breach does occur, your most precious data is sheltered.

The cyber security industry absolutely buzzes with excitement, anxiety, and doubt when the discussion turns to the Internet of Things. It is an explosive matter. The IoT will continue to grow. Its ability to make our lives more convenient and connected will continue to grow. So too will the threats and vulnerabilities that it represents. Expect to see high-profile news stories revolving around Internet-connected objects and expect to see your budget in this area balloon as the IoT expands. From cars to toys to cameras, every industry and interest contributes to the ever-expanding galaxy that is the Internet of Things.

Firewalls.com is a value-added reseller of firewall appliances & a vendor of managed security and Firewall-as-a-Service support. Our engineers are rigorously trained and certified by all of the major manufacturers that we partner with. Whether you’re looking to add an appliance to your security set-up or seek ongoing support from seasoned experts, we can provide the security solutions necessary to get you secure and keep you secure. Contact one of our knowledgeable sales staff to answer any questions you may have about your network, our firewalls, or the Internet of Things!

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