Unraveling the truth behind the DDoS attack from electric toothbrushes

Pierluigi Paganini February 08, 2024

Several media reported that three million electric toothbrushes were compromised and recruited into a DDoS botnet. Is it true?

The Swiss newspaper Aargauer Zeitung first published the news of a DDoS attack, carried out on January 30, that involved three million compromised electric toothbrushes.

The journalists reported that threat actors gained access to three million electric toothbrushes and installed a malware that joined them to the botnet. The botnet was used to target a Swiss company, causing millions of dollars in damages. The newspaper quoted an employee of cybersecurity firm Fortinet as a source of the information. 

The news made the headlines and was reported by many other media outlets and websites without appropriate verification.

“The three million toothbrush botnet story isn’t true,” the popular cybersecurity expert Kevin Beaumont wrote on Mastodon. Other experts also shared the same opinion of the news.

Several experts explained that electric toothbrushes have no direct connections to the internet, they relies on Bluetooth to connect to mobile apps. Only these mobile apps contact the servers of the vendor to upload users’ data. 

In response to the skepticism, the newspaper published a new update on the story which included a statement from Fortinet.

“On Thursday morning, several media outlets, including the Independent, distributed a statement from Fortinet: The case had been used as an example of a DDoS attack during an interview. However, the case is not based on research by Fortinet.” reads the new article published by the newspaper.

“It appears that, due to translations, the narrative on this topic has been stretched to the point where hypothetical and actual scenarios are blurring,” state sthe the cybersecurity vendor.

However, Aargauer Zeitung pointed out that during the interview, Swiss Fortinet representatives described the toothbrush case as a real DDoS.

“What the Fortinet headquarters in California is now calling a “translation problem” sounded completely different during the research: Swiss Fortinet representatives described the toothbrush case as a real DDoS at a meeting that discussed current threats -Attack described.” reads the update provided by the newspaper. “Fortinet provided specific details: information about how long the attack took down a Swiss company’s website; an order of magnitude of how great the damage was.”

The newspaper also states that they have submitted the text of the article to Fortinet for verification before publication and the statement that this was a real case that really happened was not objected to.

Meantime Fortinet has sent this statement to several international media outlets, excluding CH Media. We

“To clarify, the topic of toothbrushes being used for DDoS attacks was presented during an interview as an illustration of a given type of attack, and it is not based on research from Fortinet or FortiGuard Labs. It appears that due to translations the narrative on this topic has been stretched to the point where hypothetical and actual scenarios are blurred.” – Fortinet.

Apart from the electronic toothbrush mess, the Internet of Things (IoT) are privileged targets for many threat actors. Some cases underscore the urgency of securing our smart homes.

IoT devices, such as smart fridges, smart meters, or thermostats, are often designed with connectivity in mind, but lack of security. This leaves them susceptible to exploitation, as cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities to gain control.

Crooks can leverage insecure IoT devices to expand their botnet armies, creating a massive threat landscape.

In a notable case, smart fridges were hacked to send out malicious emails as part of a botnet. These seemingly innocuous appliances became unwilling accomplices in a larger cybercrime scheme.

The risks associated with IoT devices being recruited into botnets are real and escalating. As we embrace the conveniences of smart technologies, manufacturers, regulators, and users must work together to enhace the security of these devices and protect against potential cyber threats.

Follow me on Twitter: @securityaffairs and Facebook and Mastodon

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Hacking, electric toothbrushes)

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