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Infected vending machines, lamps, other IoT devices shut down university network

An unnamed university’s own connected devices were infected and launched a DDoS Attack on its infrastructure and shut down the internet. The institution reached out to Verizon RISK (Research, Investigations, Solutions and Knowledge), which analyzed the DNS and firewall logs.

Some 5,000 devices, including vending machines and streetlamps, were reprogrammed to regularly connect to seafood subdomains. One a vulnerable device was compromised, the rest followed, domino-style, because they were all part of the same infected network.

“The firewall analysis identified over 5,000 discrete systems making hundreds of DNS lookups every 15 minutes,” reads the Verizon summary. “The botnet spread from device to device by brute forcing default and weak passwords.”

The university’s IT department worked fast to reset the new passwords the attacker used for the devices, as they were not encrypted and only in clear-text format.

Inadequate security turns IoT devices into easy prey for cybercriminals. Security expects have warned that, following the massive 2016 Mirai DDoS attacks, 2017 would see an increase in IoT-related attacks.

Hopefully this incident will serve as another warning for organizations to take extra security measures to prevent such situations in the future.

Following the investigation, Verizon advises institutions to “create separate network zones for IoT systems and air-gap them from other critical networks where possible.”

About the author


From a young age, Luana knew she wanted to become a writer. After having addressed topics such as NFC, startups, and tech innovation, she has now shifted focus to internet security, with a keen interest in smart homes and IoT threats. Luana is a supporter of women in tech and has a passion for entrepreneurship, technology, and startup culture.