Technology 3 min read

Ransomware Will Leverage the IoT to Compromise the Entire Network

New Zealand will, by June 2018, and a robust LoRaWAN IoT network installed nearly everywhere by Spark NZ. | Sutagon Rodruangrid |

New Zealand will, by June 2018, and a robust LoRaWAN IoT network installed nearly everywhere by Spark NZ. | Sutagon Rodruangrid |

An IoT future isn’t just approaching, countries like New Zealand have already launched IoT networks. You can monitor vehicles, infrastructure, and even the body temperature of your livestock.

Spark NZ launched an IoT network called LoRaWAN for select cities and regions this March. It services the bigger New Zealand cities such as Wellington, Christchurch, and Auckland. It’s in many other cities too, and by June 2018 it will basically cover the whole country.

LoRaWAN will be built on top of Spark NZ’s existing 4G infrastructure. It will utilize Actility’s ThingPark Wireless platform, Kerlink gateways, and Kordia technicians to construct and manage the network.

Spark NZ offers business the ability to install sensors in parking lots, cars, and even livestock. It costs about $1.50 to monitor the location and body temperature of a cow.

However, earlier this March, researchers discovered that IoT networks could provide a vector for bad actors to infect robots and other devices with a kind of ransomware.

What would happen if a hacker infected an entire IoT network?

Ransomware Realities

Ransomware encrypts a victim’s files and extorts cryptocurrencies from the victim in exchange for a decryption code. Many times, the perpetrator simply takes the funds and never decrypts the files.

Taking this concept a step further, what if IoT devices could be hacked and then repurposed to solicit currency from anyone? Well, it already happened.

Read More: Boeing Computer Systems Around the World hit by WannaCry Virus

To test the IoT’s hackability, the security company IOActive did a little experiment with an NAO humanoid robot developed by Softbank. They infected it with their own custom-built ransomware virus.

This virus is a physical manifestation of ransomware rather than an encryption of computer files.

Turns out it was easier than they anticipated. Soon, the robot was insisting that people “feed” the robot cryptocurrency. The researchers also said that this ransomware would work against the Softbank Pepper robot, as well.

How did They Gain Access to the Robot?

IOActive attacked the robot simply by having access to the Wi-Fi network and injecting malicious code.

Given that this is a big vulnerability, the researchers warned to assess robotic security before it became a bigger issue.

A few weeks later, Spark NZ announced its IoT network launch.

We doubt that NAO robots are going to be a huge hacking concern for New Zealand. Instead, we think this realization suggests that Spark NZ should prepare itself for the LoRaWAN network to attract the imagination of the hacker. Hopefully they hire lots of bug bounty hunters.

New Security Concerns Require new Security Solutions

Despite this, our world is becoming increasingly interconnected via apps, integration, and wireless capabilities.

Even New York City adopted wireless hotspot enabled trash cans in 2015.

When you can hack someone’s cardiac device, webcam, or their car, there is cause for concern. Luckily, some companies like IOTA are already thinking up novel solutions. Their idea is to utilize something like the Blockchain network to verify the validity of a connected IoT device.

If the ransomware could overtake a robot using Wi-Fi access, what could it do with an entire network?

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Juliet Childers

Content Specialist and EDGY OG with a (mostly) healthy obsession with video games. She covers Industry buzz including VR/AR, content marketing, cybersecurity, AI, and many more.

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