Since the early ‘90s, Linux has been a cornerstone of computer operating systems. Today, Linux is everywhere — from smartphones and streaming devices to smart cars and refrigerators. This operating system has been historically less susceptible to malware, unlike its contemporaries such as Windows or Mac OS. However, the widespread adoption of IoT devices has changed that, as security vulnerabilities within Linux have been found over time. These flaws have been both examined by researchers in order to make repairs and also exploited by hackers in order to cause disruption.
As recently as last month, a new strain of a Linux bricking worm appeared, targeting IoT devices– like tablets, wearables, and other multimedia players. A bricking worm is a type of malware that aims to permanently disable the system it infects. This particular strain, dubbed Silex, was able to break the operating systems of at least 4,000 devices. By targeting unsecured IoT devices running on Linux, or Unix configurations, the malware went to work. It quickly rendered devices unusable by trashing device storage, as well as removing firewalls and other network configurations. With this threat, many users will initially think their IoT device is broken, when really it is momentarily infected. To resolve the issue, users must manually download and reinstall the device’s firmware, which can be a time consuming and difficult task. And while this incident is now resolved, Silex serves as a cautionary tale to users and manufacturers alike as IoT devices continue to proliferate almost every aspect of everyday life.
With an estimated 75.4 billion IoT connected devices installed worldwide by 2025, it’s important for users to remain focused on securing all their devices. Consider these tips to up your personal device security:
- Keep your security software up-to-date. Software and firmware patches are always being released by companies. These updates are made to combat newly discovered vulnerabilities, so be sure to update every time you’re prompted to.
- Pay attention to the news. With more and more information coming out around vulnerabilities and flaws, companies are more frequently sending out updates for IoT devices. While these should come to you automatically, be sure to pay attention to what is going on in the space of IoT security to ensure you’re always in the know.
- Change your device’s factory security settings. When it comes to IoT products, many manufacturers aren’t thinking “security first.” A device may be vulnerable as soon as the box is opened, and many cybercriminals know how to get into vulnerable IoT devices via default settings. By changing the factory settings, you are instantly upgrading your device’s security.
- Use best practices for linked accounts. If you connect a service that leverages a credit card, protect that linked service account with strong passwords and two-factor authentication (2FA) where possible. In addition, pay attention to notification emails, especially those regarding new orders for goods or services. If you notice suspicious activity, act accordingly.
- Set up a separate IoT network. Consider setting up a second network for your IoT devices that doesn’t share access with your other devices and data. You can check your router manufacturer’s website to learn how. You may also want to add another network for guests and their devices.
- Get security at the start. Lastly, consider getting a router with built-in security features to make it easier to protect all the devices in your home from one place.