A report by the cybersecurity firm Netscout found that it took that long on average before a device which was newly connected to the internet experienced a R20;doorknob-rattling” attempt to break in.
These attacks were the same kind used by Mirai, a malicious program that caused chaos in 2016 by taking over more than 600,000 devices and using them to launch denial-of-service attacks on websites including Netflix, Airbnb and Twitter.
Most computers and smartphones would be immune to such methods, but numerous so-called “internet of things” devices such as webcams, digital video recorders and printers remain vulnerable.
“If you take your laptop into a coffee shop, and you have a public IP address, the chances are that someone is going tor try,” said Matt Bing, principal security analyst at Netscout.
“In the last 24 hours we saw over 20,000 attempts to log in, and that’s just one day…. this activity is kind of like the background noise of the internet. It’s just always there.”
The report illuminates how “botnets”, swarms of malicious devices that have been infected with malware and now seek to infect others, have become a permanent feature of the online world.
Mirai was a botnet program created by Paras Jha, a computer science student in New Jersey, USA who used it to delay his calculus exam by attacking his university’s website and who also ran a side business protecting other companies from the same kind of attacks.
To throw investigators off his tail he then released the source code of Mirai online, leading to numerous imitators which now control botnets across the world.
To attract their attention, Netscout set up “honeypots”, fake connections designed to look like vulnerable devices, and recorded every attempt made to connect to them.
Within minutes, the honeypots were targeted by Mirai-style botnets which choose an IP address at random and then attempt to connect to it by going through a list of default usernames and passwords.
Cybersecurity experts have repeatedly warned that too many “internet of things” devices still use such passwords and are updated too rarely, giving attackers easy access into people’s homes.
Mr Bing said users could protect themselves from botnets by making sure all of their devices were only connected to the internet through a firewall or through a home router.