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The Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionised the way we live, work, and communicate. From smart homes and wearables to connected cars and industrial sensors, our world is increasingly driven by intelligent devices. With this connectivity comes incredible opportunities for innovation and efficiency, but also a rapidly evolving landscape of cybersecurity threats. In the realm of telecommunications, where vast networks of connected devices rely on reliable and secure services, a new concern emerges: The Internet of Fraudulent Things (IoFT) or IoT Fraud.

Understanding IoT Fraud

IoT Fraud refers to the exploitation of vulnerabilities in IoT devices to carry out fraudulent activities within telecom networks. These attacks can range from unauthorised access and data theft to resource abuse and service disruption. “Fraudsters even found loopholes in exercise bikes and have extracted personal information of a user like health, lifestyle habits, and other information which is fruitful for advertisers for direct and personalised marketing” [1].

When these fraudsters see IoT adoption skyrocket, they see a large and often poorly defended attack surface they can manipulate to make money. Moreover, some IoT devices were built on legacy systems and have outdated security protocols, making them inherently more vulnerable.

Common IoT Fraud Attacks in Telecoms

  1. Botnets: IoT devices can be hijacked and turned into a “zombie army.” [2] These botnets are used to launch large-scale attacks like Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS), aiming to overwhelm network resources and disrupt services for legitimate users.
  2. Unauthorised Access: Fraudsters can exploit vulnerabilities in IoT devices to gain access to sensitive information or control systems. This can be used for data breaches, industrial espionage, or account takeovers.
  3. SIM Swapping: By manipulating IoT endpoints, criminals can trick telcos into transferring a victim’s phone number to a new SIM card in their possession. This facilitates account takeovers, financial fraud, and identity theft.
  4. Roaming Abuse: Exploiting international roaming charges, criminals use compromised IoT devices to place calls, send texts, or generate other traffic from abroad, resulting in fraudulent charges billed to the telco and, ultimately, the subscriber.
  5. Spreading Malware: IoT devices can be used as a vehicle to spread malware within a telecom network, potentially infecting other connected devices or critical infrastructure.

The Challenge for Telecoms Providers

Telecom companies are at the forefront of the IoT revolution, providing the infrastructure through which billions of devices connect. This puts them in a unique position regarding IoT Fraud:

  1. Massive Attack Surface: The sheer number and variety of devices connected to telecom networks create a vast attack surface for cybercriminals.
  2. Insecure Device Vendors: Some IoT device manufacturers prioritise rapid innovation over security, leaving them prone to vulnerabilities.
  3. Subscriber Risk: Compromised customer devices put the wider telecom network at risk.
  4. Data Exposure: Telcos collect and store vast amounts of customer data, which is vulnerable to exploitation through compromised IoT devices.
  5. Brand Damage: High-profile IoT fraud schemes can damage a telco’s reputation, affecting customer trust and retention.

Strategies for Mitigating IoT Fraud Risks in Telecoms

Addressing the IoT Fraud threat landscape requires a multi-pronged approach involving technology, collaboration, and a proactive mindset. Here are key strategies:

Strong IoT Device Security Baselines:

  • Vendor Risk Management: Implement rigorous vendor assessment processes to ensure IoT device suppliers align with your security standards and prioritise secure-by-design principles.
  • Secure Firmware & Patching: Work with vendors to ensure prompt delivery of security updates and patches. Encourage customers to install updates for their devices.
  • Default Password Discouragement: Promote strong password practices for IoT devices with customers, discouraging the use of default credentials.

Advanced Network Monitoring & Threat Detection:

  • AI/ML-Based Anomaly Detection: Implement AI-powered tools capable of analysing massive data streams from IoT devices to detect unusual activity patterns.
  • Behavioral Baselining: Track normal behavior patterns for IoT devices on your network, aiding in identifying potential compromises.
  • Real-Time Threat Intelligence: Leverage up-to-date threat intelligence feeds to stay informed about emerging IoFT attack techniques.

Customer Awareness Initiatives:

  • Educational Content: Educate customers about the importance of securing their IoT devices and best practices for password management.
  • Device Registration: Consider creating a device registration system to gain visibility into the devices connected to your network.
  • Vulnerability Notifications: Provide timely notifications to customers if their devices are identified as vulnerable, offering guidance on mitigation steps.

Industry Collaboration & Information Sharing:

  • Participate in Security Forums: Collaborate with other telecoms in industry initiatives focused on IoT security.
  • Share Threat Intelligence: Contribute to threat intelligence sharing platforms to benefit from collective insights.
  • Establish Best Practices: Work within the industry to develop standardised IoT security best practices and protocols.

Incident Response & Proactive Planning:

  • Robust Incident Response: Develop a comprehensive incident response plan specifically addressing IoT-related breaches, prioritising containment and remediation.
  • Regular Testing: Conduct simulations and exercises to test response plans, identify gaps, and optimise procedures.

Explore our innovative approaches to combatting telecom fraud:


The rise of the Internet of Fraudulent Things (IoFT) presents a complex and dynamic challenge for the telecom sector. However, ignoring it is not an option. By recognising risks, implementing robust security measures, investing in education, and fostering industry collaboration, telcos can mitigate IoT Fraud threats. This proactive approach safeguards their businesses, protects their customers, and ensures continued innovation and success within the connected world. Let’s work together to turn the IoFT challenge into an opportunity to build a more secure future for the telecommunications industry.