Be Wary of Hivenets

As more businesses seek to incorporate internet of things (IoT) technology, hackers are developing new tactics for launching cyberattacks. The very same artificial intelligence (AI) tools companies use to improve internal and customer-facing operations can enable hackers to increase the reach and magnitude of breaches. Hivenets are one of the most potentially devastating developments to arise from the malicious implementation of AI.

What is a Hivenet?

A hivenet is the next step in the evolution of the botnet, groups of automated “bot” programs capable of seeking out vulnerabilities in devices and exploiting them to inject malware. Hivenets can bring together tens or hundreds of thousands of infected devices, creating a “swarmbot.” 

The most alarming difference between a botnet and a hivenet is the hivenet’s ability to think for itself. Dark Reading describes these swarms as “intelligent clusters of compromised devices,” referring to how bots within a hivenet share information, allowing hackers to take a relatively hands-off approach. Hivenets rely on this communication along with predictive technology to make decisions during an attack, resulting in greater “intelligence” and an increased threat for businesses running outdated security systems. 

How are Hivenets Changing Cyberattacks?

Hivenets give hackers the capabilities to supercharge their attacks by increasing distribution, minimizing detection and supporting almost complete automation.

Intelligent Malware 
Attacks using hivenets could be likened to a group of thieves who are in constant communication and have nearly perfected the art of staying invisible. As soon as one thief discovers a weak point, he calls all the others to move in while the target remains completely in the dark about what’s going on. Malware is evolving to fly under the radar the same way, infecting a wider range of devices to create massive hivenets with multiple attack payloads ready to be unleashed on unsuspecting victims. 

Faster Breaches 
Because the bots in hivenets can learn from each other, network vulnerabilities are detected and exploited more quickly. As an attack progresses, the hivenet becomes more “intelligent” and gains the ability to make decisions about which payload provides the best chance of infiltrating a network. 

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks 
DDoS attacks aim to cripple servers with more requests than can be handled at one time or overwhelm databases with excessive queries. The result is the same: Network access is lost, locking businesses out of critical applications and systems. Although these types of attacks are decreasing in frequency, the advent of hivenets has the potential to make DDoS much more devastating. Speed and the sheer force of numbers may allow hackers to overwhelm systems rapidly and carry out a greater number of attacks.

What Can Businesses Do to Combat the Threat?

Hivenets are progressing from emerging threats to frightening realities, thus necessitating proactive responses from companies utilizing and manufacturing IoT technology.

Identifying Points of Vulnerability 
Now is the time for businesses to take inventory of all devices and third parties with access to internal networks, including employee-owned devices, vendor accounts and technologies used to support daily operations. All potential threats posed by these devices must be considered and addressed to minimize the risk of malware infections. 

Exercising Discernment with Implementation 
Not everything designed to be connected to the internet should be, and it’s important for business owners and IT professionals to determine whether a new device is necessary. Jumping on the bandwagon simply for the right to boast of having the “latest and greatest” can introduce serious security problems. Companies should save IoT technology for processes requiring automation and thoroughly research the security protocols of all third-party providers prior to implementation. 

Providing Stronger Security for Consumers 
Companies in the business of manufacturing and distributing IoT devices are responsible for the security of those devices and the data they collect. Because connected technology shares information between users and networks, including the networks of the manufacturer, strong security is required to prevent a single infected device from spreading malware across multiple systems. Makers of these devices must plan to provide and automatically distribute regular firmware updates. 

Improving Internal Security 
There’s a satisfying sort of irony in using AI to beat hackers at their own games. Integrated security platforms with tools to monitor devices and learn to detect attack patterns are designed to uncover malicious activity and should provide an option for isolating infected devices. 

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Conclusion
When faced with a hivenet drawing on AI technology to launch attacks with the ability to evolve during execution, businesses unprepared for modern threats are likely to be overwhelmed. Hackers are only beginning to discover all IoT and AI can do, and they’re taking advantage of every opportunity to make these technologies work for them. Any company relying on or distributing IoT must be ready to guard against, detect and respond to hivenet attacks using smart security systems and intelligent threat mitigation.