Security

Biggest threat to industrial control systems since Stuxnet

As your IT security provider, we wanted to update you on some recent breaking news.

ESETESET has discovered a new malware strain designed specifically to target industrial control systems-such as electric power grids.

The malware, detected by ESET as Win32/Industroyer, is believed to have been used in the December 2016 attack on Ukraine’s power grid that caused a major blackout.

ESET detects and blocks Industroyer. Our role in identifying this threat is just another example of our commitment to innovation and technical excellence.


Industroyer: Biggest threat to industrial control systems since Stuxnet

The 2016 attack on Ukraine’s power grid that deprived part of its capital, Kiev, of power for an hour was caused by a cyberattack. ESET researchers have since analyzed samples of malware, detected by ESET as Win32/Industroyer, capable of performing exactly that type of attack.

Whether the same malware was really involved in what cybersecurity experts consider to have been a large-scale test is yet to be confirmed. Regardless, the malware is capable of doing significant harm to electric power systems and could also be refitted to target other types of critical infrastructure.

Figure 1: Scheme of Industroyer operation

Industroyer is a particularly dangerous threat, since it is capable of controlling electricity substation switches and circuit breakers directly. To do so, it uses industrial communication protocols used worldwide in power supply infrastructure, transportation control systems, and other critical infrastructure systems (such as water and gas).

These switches and circuit breakers are digital equivalents of analogue switches; technically they can be engineered to perform various functions. Thus, the potential impact may range from simply turning off power distribution, cascading failures and more serious damage to equipment. The severity may also vary from one substation to another, as well. Needless to say, disruption of such systems can directly or indirectly affect the functioning of vital services.

Industroyer’s dangerousness lies in the fact that it uses protocols in the way they were designed to be used. The problem is that these protocols were designed decades ago, and back then industrial systems were meant to be isolated from the outside world. Thus, their communication protocols were not designed with security in mind. That means that the attackers didn’t need to be looking for protocol vulnerabilities; all they needed was to teach the malware “to speak” those protocols.

The recent power outage occurred on December 17th, 2016, almost exactly one year after the well-documented cyberattack that caused a blackout that affected around 250,000 households in several regions in Ukraine on December 23rd, 2015.

In 2015, the perpetrators infiltrated the electricity distribution networks with the BlackEnergy malware, along with KillDisk and other malicious components, and then abused legitimate remote access software to control operators’ workstations and to cut off power. Aside from targeting the Ukrainian power grid, there are no apparent similarities in code between BlackEnergy and Industroyer.

Structure and key functionalities

Industroyer is modular malware. Its core component is a backdoor used by attackers to manage the attack: it installs and controls the other components and connects to a remote server to receive commands and to report to the attackers.

What sets Industroyer apart from other malware targeting infrastructure is its use of four payload components, which are designed to gain direct control of switches and circuit breakers at an electricity distribution substation.

Each of these components targets particular communication protocols specified in the following standards: IEC 60870-5-101, IEC 60870-5-104, IEC 61850, and OLE for Process Control Data Access (OPC DA).

Generally, the payloads work in stages whose goals are mapping the network, and then figuring out and issuing commands that will work with the specific industrial control devices. Industroyer’s payloads show the authors’ deep knowledge and understanding of industrial control systems.

Figure 2: Components of Industroyer malware

The malware contains a few more features that are designed to enable it to remain under the radar, to ensure the malware’s persistence, and to wipe all traces of itself after it has done its job.

For example, the communication with the C&C servers hidden in Tor can be limited to non-working hours. Also, it employs an additional backdoor – masquerading as the Notepad application – designed to regain access to the targeted network in case the main backdoor is detected and/or disabled.

And its wiper module is designed to erase system-crucial Registry keys and overwrite files to make the system unbootable and the recovery harder. Of interest is the port scanner that maps the network, trying to find relevant computers: the attackers made their own custom tool instead of using existing software. Finally, yet another module is a Denial-of-Service tool that exploits the CVE-2015-5374 vulnerability in Siemens SIPROTEC devices and can render targeted devices unresponsive.

Conclusion

Industroyer is highly customizable malware. While being universal, in that it can be used to attack any industrial control system using some of the targeted communication protocols, some of the components in analyzed samples were designed to target particular hardware. For example, the wiper component and one of the payload components are tailored for use against systems incorporating certain industrial power control products by ABB, and the DoS component works specifically against Siemens SIPROTECT devices used in electrical substations and other related fields of application.

While in principle it’s difficult to attribute attacks to malware without performing an on-site incident response, it’s highly probable that Industroyer was used in the December 2016 attack on the Ukrainian power grid. On top of the fact that the malware clearly possesses the unique capabilities to perform the attack, it contains an activation timestamp for December 17th, 2016, the day of the power outage.

The 2016 attack on the Ukrainian power grid attracted much less attention than the attack that occurred a year earlier. However, the tool most likely used, Win32/Industroyer, is an advanced piece of malware in the hands of a sophisticated and determined attacker.

Thanks to its ability to persist in the system and provide valuable information for tuning-up the highly configurable payloads, attackers could adapt the malware to any environment, which makes it extremely dangerous. Regardless of whether or not the recent attack on the Ukrainian power grid was a test, it should serve as a wake-up call for those responsible for security of critical systems around the world.

Additional technical details on the malware and Indicators of Compromise can be found in our comprehensive white paper, and on github. For any inquiries, or to make sample submissions related to the subject, contact us at: threatintel@eset.com.

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Dictionary Attack

Hacked how, my password is mycutepuppy …

Jungle ComputerA dictionary attack is a technique or method used to breach the computer security of a password-protected machine or server. A dictionary attack attempts to defeat an authentication mechanism by systematically entering each word in a dictionary as a password or trying to determine the decryption key of an encrypted message or document.

Dictionary attacks are often successful because many users and businesses use ordinary words as passwords. These ordinary words are easily found in a dictionary, such as an English dictionary.

Dictionary attacks are not effective against systems that make use of random permutations of lowercase and uppercase letters (NOT JUST THE FIRST LETTER) combined with numerals and special characters.


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Updated March 13, 2017
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Why you need ransomware protection

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MALWAREBYTES 3 & ESET Internet Security

MalwareWhy you need ransomware protection
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) had received nearly 7,700 public complaints regarding ransomware since 2005, totaling $57.6 million in damages. Those damages include ransoms paid—generally $200 to $10,000, according to the FBI—as well as costs incurred in dealing with the attack and estimated value of data lost. In 2015 alone, victims paid over $24 million across nearly 2,500 cases reported to the IC3.

Reports of two massive, global ransomware attacks are dominating the news. As workers in Europe are heading home for the weekend, ransomware is shutting down their systems. Here’s what we know so far.

The ransomware is spread using a known, and patched, vulnerability (MS17-010) that came from a leaked NSA set of exploits that we reported on our blog in April. Our research shows the encryption is done with RSA-2048 encryption. That means that decryption will be next to impossible, unless the coders have made a mistake that we haven’t found yet.

The demanded ransom of $300 per device and the potential risks to the public that come with the targets being big utility and healthcare companies seem to be in shrill contrast. We can only hope that the companies that were hit will be able to get their backups deployed quickly and can start the recovery from this cyberattack.

Computer DangerProtection
Consumers and businesses alike should be sure their systems and software are updated with all current patches in order to stop the spread of infection. Both our consumer product, Malwarebytes, and our business product, Malwarebytes Endpoint Security, already provide proactive protection against this threat. Malwarebytes signature-less anti-exploit technology blocks the infection vector, while our anti-malware technology blocks the payload pre-execution. Our anti-ransomware technology prevents users’ files from being encrypted and will stop any future unknown ransomware variants. Malwarebytes combines multiple security layers with the best-informed telemetry to block an attacker at every stage of the kill chain.

https://www.malwarebytes.com/

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