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SPAM supposedly spotted leaving the fridge

Internet of Things security scares already need to take a chill pill

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

It's still silly season, it seems. Tell the world that a bunch of small business broadband routers have been compromised and recruited into botnets, and the world yawns.

Add in a television or a multi-media centre, and there's a faint flicker of interest – perhaps a raised eyebrow, but not much more. Add in the word “refrigerator”, as Proofpoint did in this press release, and the world goes nuts.

Which is why, of course, the refrigerator is in there. Here's what the security outfit actually said about a spam-spreading caper it spotted:

“The global attack campaign involved more than 750,000 malicious email communications coming from more than 100,000 everyday consumer gadgets such as home-networking routers, connected multi-media centers, televisions and at least one refrigerator that had been compromised and used as a platform to launch attacks.”

Let's put that in context: the “Internet of things”, says Proofpoint, was the source of three quarters of a million messages in a “global attack campaign”. Meanwhile, estimates for the world's daily spam centre around 100 billion spam messages a day (depending on the success of efforts to disrupt the spammers' operations.

In other words, what Proofpoint found is, right now, a very small proportion of the world's attack traffic.

The Register is also concerned that Proofpoint's media release doesn't identify which refrigerator (of the handful that run some kind of Linux) was involved (which would enable owners to at least unplug their fridges from the Internet), nor how many messages apparently originated from the fridge.

Here's another inconsistency that worries Vulture South: since we're not aware of any refrigerator in possession of its own WAN interface, we presume it was on a home network somewhere, and the router was so insecure that the attackers could recruit it into their botnet. And that they chose to attack the fridge rather than the gateway router that they were passing to reach it.

I guess it makes sense for attackers, like security researchers, to look at new platforms – and that what Proofpoint has turned up is someone's proof-of-concept.

However, Vulture South is not, as our peers seem to be, lying awake at night over the refrigerator spambot, for a few reasons: the platform itself is constrained; it's relatively easily detected and defeated; and there are more attractive targets on the same networks as the refrigerators live on.

If you don't want your refrigerator recruited into a botnet, the answer's easy: don't give it the right to connect to your network. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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