Ransomware has become, without a doubt, one of the most dangerous and lucrative cyberthreats in recent years. Crooks are constantly coming up with new ideas and techniques to extort victims and to improve their “moneymakers”.
It is clear how ransomware operates by fooling victims into installing a malicious file, which then encrypts their valuable data and demands a ransom sum for its recovery. This has done a lot of damage to users and especially to businesses which, as bigger targets, lose a lot of money in attempt to regain control over their data.
And like this isn’t bad enough it seems like we could be facing an ever bigger threat in the near future. With more and more everyday objects joining the Internet of Things (IoT) network, there is a high chance that the crooks would also start targeting them. In such scenario, the consequences could become more dangerous than we have ever thought they could be.
Intel Security researchers have recently stumbled across a vulnerability in the infotainment system of a connected car, which crooks could abuse to install malware on its system. Raj Samani, CTO EMEA at Intel Security, explains that this could work if the cybercriminals put the malware on an SD card and then load it into the infotainment system.
Researchers proved that the car could, in fact, be infected by making it sound system to play the same song over and over again. While this king of hacking is just annoying, others may be very perilous. As vehicles’ systems become more interconnected on the inside a flaw like that could allow crooks to compromise the entire car, especially if there is no clear separation between the engine control units and other systems.
“This could be a lucrative option for cybercriminals because, while people might be OK with losing some files if they don’t pay the ransom when it comes to a car, they’re going to give in. Quite frankly, if you’re sitting in your driveway in 2021 in a self-driving car, if you have to pay two Bitcoins to get to work, what are you going to do? Are you going to pay? Of course, you will. If you’ve got a $60,000 connected car to drive you to work and you’re being charged $200 to move? You’ll pay.” – Samani adds.
Aside from vehicles, researchers have also demonstrated how it would be hard for malicious hackers to infect a home router with ransomware. The router used in the experiment can be purchased from Amazon and more than 100,000 users have already bought it.
The device arrives with basic default login credentials, giving the attacker opportunity to compromise it simply by entering the default login and password.
“A search finds tens of thousands of home routers which basically have fundamental security issues.” – said Samani – ”If a hacker were able to exploit the flaw, the victim would need to pay the ransom in order to regain control of every internet-connected device in their home — and it’s likely they’d pay up in order to regain control of their systems from the hackers.”
Unfortunately, there is news worse than this. When organizations were informed that their products pose a potential threat, some of them didn’t even care enough to reply. Considering how fast the number of IoTs is growing, the carelessness with which some manufacturers react is very concerning.
“We get a very mixed bag of responses from companies.” – says Samani – “In some cases, they say ‘great, let’s fix it,’ but in other cases, we just get complete silence.”
“The concept of today’s ransomware is to lock your data to ransom. But what we’re showing here is that the data is almost irrelevant — it’s the device we’re locking up: connected medical devices, home routers, cars; it’s the device.” – the researcher adds.