A new IoT botnet called Reaper could be far more virulent than Mirai

In 2016, an Internet of Things worm called Mirai tore through the internet, building botnets of millions of badly designed CCTVs, PVRs, routers and other gadgets, sending unstoppable floods of traffic that took down major internet services from Paypal to Reddit to Dyn.

Mirai spread by scanning for other IoT devices and then trying default login and password combinations on them, which meant that it could only infect devices whose default passwords had never been changed (this was nearly every device).

But there's a new IoT worm called Reaper (also called "Troop") that augments Mirai's default password tactic with an arsenal of common defects in IoT gadgets, which it exploits to gain control over systems even when the passwords have been changed. In a very short time, Reaper has compromised over a million devices and it's growing fast.

On Friday, researchers at the Chinese security firm Qihoo 360 and the Israeli firm Check Point detailed the new IoT botnet, which builds on portions of Mirai’s code, but with a key difference: Instead of merely guessing the passwords of the devices it infects, it uses known security flaws in the code of those insecure machines, hacking in with an array of compromise tools and then spreading itself further. And while Reaper hasn’t been used for the kind of distributed denial of service attacks that Mirai and its successors have launched, that improved arsenal of features could potentially allow it to become even larger—and more dangerous—than Mirai ever was.

“The main differentiator here is that while Mirai was only exploiting devices with default credentials, this new botnet is exploiting numerous vulnerabilities in different IoT devices. The potential here is even bigger than what Mirai had,” says Maya Horowitz, the manager of Check Point’s research team. “With this version it’s much easier to recruit into this army of devices.”