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History of IoT Botnets: From Single Devices to Multiple Networks

Since we were introduced to the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), our ways of interacting with technology, automation across various devices, and enabling unprecedented connectivity all have been revolutionized. Although this innovation also introduced us to various security challenges, one of them is the rise of IoT Botnets. In this article, we will talk about how in the history of IoT botnets, how they were traced first from isolated incidents and then to their development to large-scale and sophisticated threats.

City showing connected IoT devices

Early Stages: The Emergence of IoT Botnets

In the early 2000s, the concept of IoT botnets originated when people of that era were introduced to personal computers that could be connected to the internet. The primary focus of those early botnets was to exploit the vulnerabilities in personal computers to form networks of compromised devices for threat purposes, such as sending spam or launching Distributed Denial of Service, which are DDoS attacks.

When IoT devices increased productivity and efficiency remarkably in the mid-2010’s, a latest frontier for IoT botnets emerged. These IoT devices with exceptional range from smart thermostats and cameras to the control systems of industries, frequently lacked some robust security measures, which makes them prime targets for exploitation. In 2016, Mirai botnet was discovered and it was the first major IoT botnet and this brought an extensive attention to the newly introduced threat.

The Mirai Botnet: A Turning Point

In the history of botnets, Mirai marked a notable turning point. Originally, botnets targeted vulnerable IoT devices like home routers and IP cameras, utilising usernames and passwords for overall control over devices. As a result of these devices, a botnet was formed and was capable of launching powerful DDoS attacks.

In October 2016, Mirai botnet got into disrepute when it was used to launch a huge DDoS attack on DYN, which is a major Domain Name System (DNS) provider. This attack brought a disruption in internet services across Europe and the United States, which further affected major websites like Reddit, Twitter, and Netflix. All of this chaos in the IoT devices highlights the crucial impact and potential scale of IoT botnets, which encourages the cybersecurity community to take this threat in more consideration than ever.

Evolution and Diversification

After the success of Mirai botnet, the realm of IoT botnets evolved swiftly. Meanwhile, potential threats started to diversify their threat strategies by employing various sophisticated techniques and targeting a wide range of devices. During this period, various notable botnets emerged and each of them contributes its part to the growing complexity of the IoT botnet environment.

Reaper (ToTroop) Botnet

Recognized in 2017, the Reaper botnet was more advanced since it utilizes the known vulnerabilities in IoT devices rather than just relying on some default credentials. The more serious danger Reaper could bring is spreading on its own and adding new exploits which is a big threat and is capable of having control over millions of IoT devices.

Hajime Botnet

The Hajime botnet, which was first introduced in 2016, did not launch attacks on other devices. Instead, it focused on securing the devices it infected while targeting vulnerabilities similar to those exploited by Mirai. This led to speculations that it was a vigilante botnet. However, its emergence also raised ethical concerns regarding the use of malware for device protection.

Satori Botnet

The Satori botnet first emerged in 2017 and followed the footsteps laid by Mirai''s code. However, it also incorporated new methods of exploitation and propagation. The Satori botnet targeted a wider range of devices ranging from routers to IP cameras. It leveraged its vulnerabilities to seize control and expand its botnet. The rapid spread and adaptability of Satori were the perfect example of the evolving methods of IoT botnets.

IoT Botnets in the Modern Era

With the rapid increase in IoT devices, the IoT botnets also continued to proliferate. The modern IoT botnets reveals various key characteristics that differentiate them from their early predecessors,

Advanced Evasion Techniques

Modern botnets use some advanced tricks in order to not get detected or stopped. This includes,

  • Using peer-to-peer (P2P) networks for coordination
  • Encrypting command-and-control (C2) communications
  • Utilizing zero-day vulnerabilities

Such tactics make things difficult for cybersecurity experts who can identify and neutralize botnets.

Targeted Attacks

Modern botnets are usually used for specific attacks against specific organizations or industries. For instance, IoT botnets could target:

  • Critical Infrastructures
  • Financial Institutions
  • Healthcare Systems

This highlights how these networks could be strategically used for the maximum impact.

Increased Scale and Impact

These modern botnets have the ability to take over control of millions of devices which significantly amplifies their potential impact. With this ability of being connected with so many devices, these IoT botnets have the power to enable bigger and more harmful attacks, that could affect critical infrastructures and services.

Monetization Strategies

Cybercriminals have found multiple ways to make huge money with the help of IoT botnets. These potential threats,

  • Launch ransomware attacks
  • Rent out botnet services on the dark web
  • Engagement in click fraud

This profitable thing encourages the potential threats to continue the use and further creation of IoT botnets.


The recorded history of these IoT botnets demonstrates the vital and evolving nature of potential cybersecurity threats. Right from the beginning of isolated attacks to the disclosure of the large-scale threats, the sophisticated botnets, this range of threat landscape has intensively increased. With the continued advancement of IoT devices and their integration into our daily lives, we should realize the importance of the security of these devices since we cannot overstate them. With an understanding of the evolution of IoT botnets and the implementation of strong security measures, we can defend ourselves from these potential threats and let’s ensure ourselves that we do have a more secure and safer future ahead of us.

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