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Botnets in the IoT can cause power failures

In its current semi-annual report, the Reporting and Analysis Center for Information Assurance (MELANI) in Switzerland reports on the potential danger of a power failure caused by networked household appliances.

21 May. 2019
Botnets in the IoT can cause power failures (Photo by Robin Sommer on Unsplash)

The MELANI experts refer to a study by Princeton University according to which a malicious attacker could exploit the increasing interconnection of air conditioning systems, heating systems and similar devices. If he manages to set up a botnet in the Internet of Things (IoT), he would be in a position to manipulate electricity consumption and thus overload the power grid. Both utility companies and the entire industry would pay dearly in case of a power failure. Such attack scenarios are new because they target consumers rather than production or transmission: in contrast to power plants or transmission grids, their IoT devices are often poorly protected. The strategy already has a name: MadIoT, which stands for “Manipulation of demand via IoT”.

Referring to information from the security company Trustwave, the specialist portal Infopoint Security reports that the digital risk of the Internet of Things is often underestimated. One reason for this is that there is usually no typically vulnerable endpoint, such as a keyboard. Any device connected to the network - from the router to the refrigerator - could nevertheless serve as the starting point for an attack.