Hack The Planet

Because if you don't, who will?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

When the lights go out…

For years, information security researchers have warned about attacks on ICS (Industrial Control System) infrastructure at power and water facilities but this year we may finally start seeing some executives taking it seriously…or are they?

In 2010, the world became aware of Stuxnet, an elegantly designed piece of malware targeted at SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facilities. The goal of the malware was to cause the centrifuges at the facility to fail, and by all accounts it was very successful. Stuxnet woke up the information security world to the risk of what malware targeted against ICS/SCADA systems could do, and the risks we all faced. Sadly, many people in the C-Suite believed, as many people do, that attacks only happen to other people.

In 2017, the Triton\Trisis malware was discovered to be targeting a vulnerability in Schneider Electric’s Triconex firmware. One victim was reportedly in the Middle East, but how many organizations have been truly impacted is unknown. This RAT (Remote Access Trojan) triggered an emergency systems shutdown before it could deploy its payload, or we may have never have discovered it.

One of the interesting functions in both of these different malware samples is their ability to collect information from the systems they have infected. Stuxnet used this capability to replay information to the monitoring systems to show that everything was okay, while in reality the centrifuges were failing. Advanced, and motivated adversaries build these carefully crafted attacks to not only cause destruction, but to hide themselves and what is truly going on in the environment to extend their ability to cause damage. It is both impressive, and terrifying.

In a recent survey by Tripwire, people from the energy sector were asked about their concerns, the classic “What keeps you up at night?”. The answers were interesting if not expected.

91% responded that they were worried about cyber attacks against their ICS systems. It makes sense that they would be concerned, but I wonder if the other 9% didn’t understand the question. If you are in the energy sector and are not worried about this, then you should be replaced because you don’t understand your threat model and what you are up against.

70% responded that they were concerned that an attack would result in a catastrophic event. With the capabilities that Stuxnet, Industroyer, and Triton have at their disposal, the likelihood of an incident that causes massive loss of life is growing.

The one statistic that I really want to share, is that 56% of respondents stated that they will only see more security investment “Once there is a significant attack” against them. This is incredibly telling. This comes from the idea that it is cheaper to fail or be breached, than to properly secure your environment. Sadly this has proved out to some degree, and even more sadly shareholders are valued over lives.

I am sure we will see even more attacks moving forward, and I can only hope that we learn how to properly invest, and protect our energy and water facilities before it’s too late.

posted by holliday at 1:08 pm  

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