As the Internet of Things continues to grow, so do opportunities for devious hackers. A multi-national warning has been issued regarding our home and business network devices—think modems, WiFi routers, and repeaters. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has noted a large-scale attack launched against specific network devices. So together with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), they’ve issued a Technical Alert warning everyone about ongoing cyber exploitation.
“The current state of U.S. network devices—coupled with a...campaign to exploit these devices—threatens the safety, security, and economic well-being of the United States.”
We’d call that statement attention-worthy. In an effort to get out the warning—especially to “network device vendors, ISPs, public-sector organizations, private-sector corporations, and small office home office (SOHO) customers”—the DHS has reached out to public media outlets. And yet while the story may have perked ears and piqued some interest, it’s easily overwhelmed by the daily onslaught. Even the IT sector could get lost in today’s news, quickly forgetting yesterday’s threats.
Zinc is concerned about our clients’ cyber safety, so we felt it was our duty to keep this alert front and center. The DHS cybersecurity chief advised citizens to learn more about the network devices they’re using—"check what the vendor is, the make and the model...get online...download the vendor guidance for how to address it." Cisco has already been “actively informing customers about the necessary steps to secure” network devices.
It may take a bit of nosing around, but tracking down vendor suggestions on how to secure devices is a must. We’d also recommend that IT folks take a detailed look at the DHS alert and implement suggestions, staying alert to system weaknesses.
So what’s really going on here? The alert warns that outdated or unsecured systems could allow threat actors to get inside company or home networks and exploit security loopholes. This could mean redirecting internet traffic (“spoofing”), stealing login credentials, and editing system settings, among other sneaky moves. Scarier still is the fact that these cybercrooks don’t have to resort to installing malware or other viruses–the system’s weak spots are a built-in back door.
The DHS notes that a prime factor in this breakdown is a neglect to update security systems or download patches that fix weak spots. With holes left open to known threats, it’s easier than easy for cyber criminals to walk right in and hijack or manipulate a system.
“These factors allow for both intermittent and persistent access to both intellectual property and U.S. critical infrastructure that supports the health and safety of the U.S. population.”
All that said, how can you and I—the everyday, average internet users–protect ourselves? The alert goes on to detail the method:
The alert also lists plenty of tech-speak for IT handyfolk, explaining specifics that can be implemented to avoid infiltration. The DHS encourages anyone who identifies the criminal use of listed tools or techniques to immediately report information to the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) or law enforcement.
Cyber security is a big deal to us at zinc. Our customers entrust us with their data, and we’re committed to protecting that trust. We do all we can to keep their information safe—it’s all about that give and take.
The DHS cybersecurity chief says it best: "...we need individuals - consumers, citizens - and we need companies to all recognize that they have a role to play in keeping this Internet ecosystem safe." So let’s all do our respective parts in cleaning up our cyber habits and making cyber security “Our Shared Responsibility.”
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