'World's First Solution' to Mirai-like Botnets

mirai botnet hacks securifi IoT
A padlock displayed at the 2016 Black Hat cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., August 3, 2016. REUTERS/David Becker

The poor security of web-connected devices such as smart thermostats, fridges and webcams poses a serious threat to the internet, with major websites and even entire countries knocked offline in recent months.

With the rise of so-called botnets—networks infected with malicious software and controlled as groups without the owners' knowledge—experts are warning that the problem is only going to get worse. But one company thinks it has a solution.

An internet security device developed by Wi-Fi router company Securifi offers an antidote to the botnet plague that has taken over devices. Securifi's Almond 3 internet router claims to be the "world's first solution" to protect against botnet attacks by identifying vulnerable devices on its network.

In October, cyber attacks using compromised smart devices caused dozens of major websites to go offline, including Netflix, Reddit and Twitter. The disruption was caused by a hackers in control of a network of devices known as the Mirai botnet. Mirai was used to perform a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack against critical infrastructure, meaning that the target was overloaded with web traffic.

"The Mirai DDoS attack started with common household network devices like routers, cameras, DVRs, and so on. It ended up bringing down the internet for large parts of the eastern United States," Securifi CEO Rammohan Malasani tells Newsweek.

"Our new internet security device, running on Almond routers, protects home networks by identifying problematic devices before they become pawns in Mirai-like botnet attacks, [ensuring] that even those inexpensive Chinese cameras don't take down your network."

hacking internet of things ddos mirai
Graphic shows the security risks the Internet of Things faces, and how hackers can launch a DDoS attack. Reuters Graphics

The Mirai botnet has also been blamed for prolonged cyber attacks on Russian banks, and even knocking the entire country of Liberia offline.

Research from security firm BullGuard estimates that up to 185 million devices may be vulnerable to hackers wishing to perform even more devastating attacks. Projections from technology research firm Gartner suggest there will be more than 20 billion Internet of Things devices by 2020, while estimates from ABI Research put the figure closer to 30 billion.

The severity of the security issues with such devices has led some experts to warn that October's attacks may be a precursor to a "cyber atomic bomb." Speaking to Newsweek after the disruption, cybersecurity veteran John McAfee said he expected much larger attacks in the near future.

"Clearly there are weaknesses," McAfee said. "Anticipate that these will be exploited in a big way."