Permanent denial-of-service (PDoS), also known loosely as phlashing, is an attack that damages a system so badly that it requires replacement or reinstallation of hardware. Unlike the distributed denial-of-service attack, a PDoS attack exploits security flaws which allow remote administration on the management interfaces of the victim’s hardware, such as routers, printers, or other networking hardware. The attacker uses these vulnerabilities to replace a device’s firmware with a modified, corrupt, or defective firmware image—a process which when done legitimately is known as flashing. This therefore “bricks” the device, rendering it unusable for its original purpose until it can be repaired or replaced.
The PDoS is a pure hardware targeted attack which can be much faster and requires fewer resources than using a botnet or a root/vserver in a DDoS attack. Because of these features, and the potential and high probability of security exploits on Network Enabled Embedded Devices (NEEDs), this technique has come to the attention of numerous hacking communities. BrickerBot, a piece of malware that targeted Internet of Things devices, used PDoS attacks to disable its targets.