Stephen Herwig (University of Maryland), Katura Harvey (University of Maryland, Max Planck Institute for Software Systems (MPI-SWS)), George Hughey (University of Maryland), Richard Roberts (University of Maryland, Max Planck Institute for Software Systems (MPI-SWS)), Dave Levin (University of Maryland)

The Internet of Things (IoT) introduces an unprecedented diversity and ubiquity to networked computing. It also introduces new attack surfaces that are a boon to attackers. The recent Mirai botnet showed the potential and power of a collection of compromised IoT devices. A new botnet, known as Hajime, targets many of the same devices as Mirai, but differs considerably in its design and operation. Hajime uses a public peer-to-peer system as its command and control infrastructure, and regularly introduces new exploits, thereby increasing its resilience.

We show that Hajime’s distributed design makes it a valuable tool for better understanding IoT botnets. For instance, Hajime cleanly separates its bots into different peer groups depending on their underlying hardware architecture. Through detailed measurement—active scanning of Hajime’s peer-to-peer infrastructure and passive, longitudinal collection of root DNS backscatter traffic—we show that Hajime can be used as a lens into how IoT botnets operate, what kinds of devices they compromise, and what countries are more (or less) susceptible. Our results show that there are more compromised IoT devices than previously reported; that these devices use an assortment of CPU architectures, the popularity of which varies widely by country; that churn is high among IoT devices; and that new exploits can quickly and drastically increase the size and power of IoT botnets. Our code and data are available to assist future efforts to measure and mitigate the growing threat of IoT botnets.

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