Industrial Sector ICSs under attack – Kaspersky Lab’s ICS-CERT

Pierluigi Paganini March 29, 2017

The report shows a disconcerting reality, the number of targeted attacks on the ICSs deployed in the Industrial sector continues to increase.

The Kaspersky Lab’s ICS-CERT has published a report on the threat landscape for industrial automation systems (ICSs) related to second half of 2016.

The report shows a disconcerting reality, the number of targeted attacks on the Industrial sector continues to increase.

On average, in the second half of 2016, the security solutions deployed by Kaspersky Lab across the globe blocked attempted attacks on 39.2% of protected computers being part of industrial enterprise technology infrastructure.

The targeted systems include machines running Windows OS and performing the following functions:

  • Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) servers.
  • Data storage servers (Historian).
  • Data gateways (OPC).
  • Stationary engineer and operator workstations.
  • Mobile engineer and operator workstations.
  • Human Machine Interface (HMI).

Every month, an average of 20.1% of industrial computers is hit by malware, the most used attack vectors are known malicious and phishing web resources (22%), removable media (11%) and email (8%).

The devices typically used by network administrators, developers and contractors are more exposed to cyber attacks because they are often freely connected to the Internet.

At the same time, stationary workstations on the operational network (OT) are more secure because they don’t typically have an always-on Internet connection.

Top 15 countries based on the percentage of industrial computers attacked are Vietnam, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Iran, China, Peru, Chile, India, Egypt, Mexico, and Turkey. According to Kaspersky, Western European countries and the US are less targeted by hackers.

ICSs attacks

Attackers leverage on both custom malware leveraging on zero-day exploits and widely available malicious codes to targeted ICS.

In the second half of 2016, Kaspersky detected about 20,000 different samples of malware representing over 2,000 different malware families. In most cases, they weren’t specifically designed to infect industrial automation systems. These malicious codes detected by Kaspersky include Trojan spies, financial malware, ransomware (including encrypting ransomware), backdoors and Wipers (KillDisk).

“Remarkably, there is very little difference between the rankings of malware detected on industrial computers and those of malware detected on corporate computers. We believe that this demonstrates the absence of significant differences between computers on corporate networks and those on industrial networks in terms of the risk of chance infections. However, it is obvious that even a chance infection on an industrial network can lead to dangerous consequences.” reads the report.

Industrial companies continued to be victims of spear phishing campaigns, the Kaspersky Lab ICS-CERT detected a series of spear phishing attacks which began in June 2016 and that according to the experts are still active. The attacks target primarily industrial companies – metallurgical, electric power, construction,

“The attacks target primarily industrial companies – metallurgical, electric power, construction, engineering and others. We estimate the number of companies attacked at over 500 in more than 50 countries around the world” reads the report issued by Kaspersky. “In all the cases that we have analyzed, phishing emails were sent on behalf of various supplier companies, customers, commercial organizations and delivery services, and contained offers to view updated pricelists, requests to check invoice information, review product prices, resend a supposedly damaged file or receive goods listed in a consignment note.”

The attackers use to compromise corporate mail servers with spyware designed to steal account credentials, then exploit them to send out the spear phishing messages.

The weaponized documents used in the campaigns embedded RAT and backdoors, such as ZeuS, Pony/FareIT, Luminosity RAT, NetWire RAT, HawkEye, and ISR Stealer.

The hackers packed the above malware using VB and MSIL packers that were customized for the specific campaigns.

The researchers at Kaspersky identified multiple vulnerabilities in ICSs in the last year, they reported 75 flaws, including 58 rated highly critical.

Analyzing the type of the flaws, we can see that the vast majority is DoS flaws (45), followed by RCE (16) and file manipulation issue (10).

ICSs attacks

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – ICSs, hacking)

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