MSPmentor Blog

Five Ways to Prevent Your Customers’ Networks from Turning into Zombie IoT Botnets

The Internet of Things presents a new world of opportunity for cyber criminals.

For the fourth straight quarter, malicious email and Web-borne traffic has increased, according to the Q3 Global Security Report conducted by researchers at AppRiver. This uptick in traffic has been linked to an increase in IoT botnets, which have the ability to blast malware campaigns to the corners of the earth by leveraging the power of their many connected, but unsuspected wireless devices.

A recent study from Gartner stated that there are currently 6.4B “connected things” currently, and predicted this number to rise to 20.8B by 2020. And as the uptick in IoT devices continues to grow, we can also bank on malware traffic using more IoT devices as conduits. It’s suspected that an IoT botnet was used to commit a DDoS attack against major internet DNS provider Dyn in October, taking the service provider completely offline for hours.

Traditionally, botnets targeted high-powered PCs to do their bidding, but the numbers of PCs owned by individuals and organizations are growing stagnant. The average office worker likely has one computer at home and one at the office, meaning that the number of available computers to infect is tied to the population and workforce. Additionally, most organizations have at least some sort of bare-bones antivirus and Web protection solutions in place.

IoT, however, presents a new world of opportunity for cyber criminals. It seems like every year there is some sort of hot new device on the market that everyone has to have—from the iPhone 7 to Alexa. And while most people at least think about the threat of infecting their computer with malware via an infected email or malicious website (even if they don’t act upon their concerns and purchase an antivirus solution), most people would never think about their smart doorbell getting infected with malware via their home Wi-Fi network. This makes IoT devices relatively easy to infect.

MSPs and IT admins can help defend their customers from IoT-sourced malware threats by taking the following steps:

  • Recommend a BYOD policy. If employees are going to conduct business from their personal phones, laptops, etc., there should be policies in place regarding mandatory software updates and antivirus solutions. (See our advice on BYOD policies here.)
  • This goes back to the BYOD policy, but your customers really need to have routine software updates on their work devices too. You already know this, but software updates often contain patches to security risks.
  • Offer solutions that prevent the latest email and Web-borne threats. We’ll shamelessly plug our own SecureTide and SecureSurf solutions here, which block more than 99 percent of spam and malware via email and the Web. Both solutions are delivered via the cloud. They require no hardware or software updates, and are updated live so that your customers never have to worry about updating their antivirus.
  • If malware does make its way onto a customer’s network, you’ll probably want to know about it so you can clean the machine. AppRiver’s SecureSurf has Automatic Threat Notifications that notify IT admins if malware is found on a network.
  • Having access to live, 24/7 threat intelligence about spam and malware trends can help keep you ahead of the competition. We offer Email Threat Intelligence, which uses 250,000 active signature tests to check for malicious messages. The solution is compatible with Windows, Linux and BSD operating systems, and integrates easily with most email server or spam filtering solutions.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can protect your customers’ networks by partnering with AppRiver, please visit

Guest blogs such as this one are published monthly and are part of MSPmentor's annual platinum sponsorship.

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