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14 Mar 2024

Odd cyber-attack: Casino fish tank hack

In a world increasingly reliant on the Internet of Things (IoT), a new and unusual vector for cyber-attacks has emerged. One such famous incident was the casino fish tank hack. This internet-connected device became the entry point for a sophisticated cyber-attack. 

This article delves into the possible route of the attack, the personal data at risk, and measures that could have been implemented to prevent such a security breach.

A deep dive into the attack

Using an internet-connected fish tank to steal personal data in a casino might sound like something out of a cyber-thriller novel, but in the world of cybersecurity, it's a vivid example of how even the most innocuous device can serve as a gateway for hackers. Here's a detailed look into how such an attack could unfold.

Initial reconnaissance

Hackers first identify targets with potential vulnerabilities; in this case, an internet-connected fish tank. Such devices often lack robust security features, making them easier to exploit. The fish tank, equipped with sensors and connected to the internet for monitoring purposes (e.g., temperature, cleanliness, and overall health of the fish and their environment), becomes an ideal target.

The casino fish tank hack is not just a cautionary tale but a call to action for enhanced security in the age of IoTExploitation phase

Finding a vulnerability: The hackers begin by scanning the fish tank's smart system for vulnerabilities. This could involve exploiting weak default passwords, unpatched software, or exploiting known vulnerabilities in the IoT device's firmware. In this case, it was the fish tank's thermometer.

Gaining access: Once a vulnerability is found, the hackers use it to gain unauthorised access to the fish tank's controller. This might involve injecting malware or using a remote access tool (RAT) to take control of the system.

Lateral movement

After gaining initial access through the fish tank, the attackers look to move laterally within the casino's network. The goal is to find and access more valuable systems connected to the network, such as...

Payment systems: Hackers could gain access to systems handling customer payments, steal credit card information, or commit financial fraud.

Database servers: Servers containing personal data of customers, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and gambling histories.

Employee information: Accessing HR systems to obtain personal information about the casino's employees, which could be used for identity theft or phishing attacks.

Data exfiltration

Once the desired data is located, the attackers move to the exfiltration phase - removing and storing the information. They can employ various techniques to stealthily transfer data from the casino's network to their control. Here are three examples...

Encrypted channels: Using VPNs, TOR, or other encrypted channels to avoid detection by network security systems.

Data Splitting: Breaking up the stolen data into smaller chunks to avoid triggering large data transfer alarms.

Timing the transfer: Data exfiltration could be conducted during peak network usage times to blend in with regular traffic and reduce the chances of detection.

Covering tracks

After exfiltrating the data, attackers would aim to cover their tracks to avoid immediate detection and potential tracing. This could involve erasing logs, using malware to destroy evidence, or even leaving false trails to mislead investigators.

The stolen data

The personal data at risk in such attacks includes anything from customer information, financial records, and high-roller databases to employee personal identifiable information (PII). In the casino's case, the hackers could have accessed databases containing sensitive customer information, such as names, home addresses, banking details, and gambling habits. This information is a gold mine for cybercriminals, who can use it for identity theft, financial fraud, or even targeted phishing schemes.

Strengthening the weak links

Preventing such an attack requires a multi-faceted approach to cybersecurity, especially in environments rich with IoT devices. Here are several strategies that could help thwart similar incidents.

1. Device Segmentation: By segmenting the network, businesses can isolate critical data and systems from less secure IoT devices. Had the casino implemented network segmentation, the breach of the fish tank's system wouldn't have given hackers access to sensitive data.

2. Regular Vulnerability Assessments: Regular scans for vulnerabilities in all internet-connected devices, followed by timely patching of identified weaknesses, can significantly reduce the risk of attacks.

3. Strong Authentication and Encryption: Implementing strong authentication protocols and encryption for data in transit and data at rest can deter attackers. For the fish tank, this could have meant the difference between a secure system and an open door for hackers.

4. Awareness and Training: Employees should be trained to recognise potential security threats and understand the importance of security measures for all devices, not just computers and smartphones. Phishing awareness training is a good starting point.

5. Comprehensive Security Policies: Developing and enforcing comprehensive security policies that include IoT devices can help ensure that all potential attack points are considered and secured.

Summary of Casino Fish Tank Hack

The cyber-attack via an internet-connected fish tank at a casino serves as a stark reminder of the innovative methods hackers employ to exploit vulnerabilities. It underscores the critical need for comprehensive security measures that encompass not just traditional IT infrastructure but all internet-connected devices. 

Organisations can significantly mitigate the risk of such inventive cyber-attacks by implementing robust security protocols, conducting regular vulnerability assessments, and fostering a culture of security awareness. The casino fish tank hack is not just a cautionary tale (phish tail?) but a call to action for enhanced security in the age of IoT.

Graham Smith

By Graham Smith