The wheel turns slowly, but it turns: Feds emit IoT security tip sheet

Alexa! Are you part of a botnet?


The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has offered advice on securing Internet of Things devices to prevent "Cyber Actors" using your garage door for nefarious purposes.

The cheat sheet, following hot on the heels of tips on how to fend off cyber attacks last year, includes an explanation of what a Cyber Actor is (sadly, not a Max Headroom reference), how to know if a device is compromised, and steps to users can take to protect themselves.

The Feds list a variety of potential targets for miscreants, from the obvious (routers) through to the obscure (a clock). Even the poor old Raspberry Pi doesn't escape the gimlet gaze of the Bureau.

A Cyber Actor, the FBI warned, might use a compromised device to unleash a tsunami of spam, mask internet browsing by ne'er-do-wells or take part in botnets aimed at finding or exploiting vulnerabilities or data breaches. Users will never be able to look at their garage door quite the same way again.

Recruited by foreign powers

The FBI also has tips on how to know if you have a compromised device, presumably before the Feds come knocking on your door after your microwave has attempted to swing an election at the behest of a not-so-nice foreign power.

The wheels come off a bit when it comes to symptoms. Device unresponsive? A spike in internet usage? Internet access seems a bit slow? Yep – something is compromised. Either that, or Windows 10 is updating again.

A hipster man with shades claps, saying bravo

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The advice to resolve, or defend against the problem, is enough to make a BOFH's heart sing, starting with simply turning everything off and then turning it back on again on a regular basis. The Feds also recommend changing default passwords, keeping up to date with patches (tricky with an IoT device) and keeping the things isolated from other network connections.

Taking aside the practicalities of restarting a security camera once a day, or finding a patch for a cheap bit of silicon shipped out from an obscure corner of Shenzhen, it is good to see authorities taking seriously the challenges posed by the wave of IoT devices. Even if it carries the distinct whiff of the stable door of security being firmly closed long after the horse of criminality has bolted over the horizon.

The alternative approach, sadly not mentioned by the FBI, is to simply not have any IoT in the house – something becoming more difficult with every passing year. ®

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