Industrial control systems under attack

Issue 8 2022 News, Cyber Security

From January to September 2022, computers in the industrial control systems (ICS) environment were attacked using multiple means. In the META region, malicious objects were blocked on 38% of ICS computers in the regions that were protected by Kaspersky solutions, according to Kaspersky ICS CERT statistics. Globally, the share of ICS computers with blocked malicious objects stands at 31,8%. APT attacks on industrial systems are expected to become even more sophisticated in the coming months.

ICS computers are used in oil and gas, energy, automotive manufacturing, building automation infrastructures, and other spheres to perform a range of OT (operational technology) functions – from the workstations of engineers and operators to supervisory control and data acquisition (scada) servers and Human Machine Interface (HMI). Cyberattacks on industrial computers are considered to be extremely dangerous as they may cause material losses and production downtime for the controlled production line, and possibly the entire facility. Moreover, industrial enterprises put out of service can seriously undermine a region’s social welfare, ecology and macroeconomics.

During the three quarters of 2022 in the META region, ICS computers in the oil and gas sector faced attacks most often (39,3% of them were attacked). Attacks on building automation systems were in second place at 38,8%. The energy sector was also among the top-three environments that were attacked (36,8%).

Most attacks on ICS infrastructure came from the Internet (28,2%); 9,9% of attacks were made through email clients; 7,0% of attacks were conducted through removable media, and 0,9% through network folders.

In South Africa, various types of malicious objects were blocked on 36,1% of ICS computers in this period. Of these, 14,6% came from the Internet and 17,8% of attacks were made through email clients, while 2,9% of attacks were conducted through removable media.

APT attacks on industrial systems are expected to become even more sophisticated in the coming months. The targets will be organisations in the agriculture, logistics and transportation, energy (mining, chemical, machine tool industry) sectors, as well as the sectors of renewable energy and hi-tech.

A trend expected in 2023 is the rise of ransomware in ICS environments. Ransomware groups have come a long way: scattered gangs become organised businesses and form a fully-fledged industry. We are seeing more cases where ransomware attacks, including those on ICS computers, are performed manually, in a time-consuming, yet efficient manner.

“The period of global instability provokes global semiconductor shortage. In turn, that causes companies to lower their budgets on cybersecurity, which becomes a critical issue in 2022-2023, especially in view of the evolving threat landscape. Critical industrial infrastructure solutions will be a new target for cybercrime,” says Vladimir Dashchenko, Kaspersky Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team expert.




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