In the first half of the year, manufacturing companies were the most susceptible to cyber threats: their ICS computers accounted for about one third of all attacks, according to the Kaspersky Lab report “Threat Landscape for Industrial Automation Systems in H1 2017”.
During the first six months of the year, Kaspersky Lab products blocked attack attempts on 37.6% of ICS computers from which we received anonymised information, totaling several tens of thousands. This figure was almost unchanged compared to the previous period – it is 1.6 percentage points less than in the second half of 2016. The majority of them were in manufacturing companies that produce various materials, equipment and goods. Other highly-affected industries include engineering, education and food & beverage. ICS computers in energy companies accounted for almost 5% of all attacks.
While the top three countries with attacked industrial computers – Vietnam (71%), Algeria (67.1%) and Morocco (65.4%) remained the same, researchers detected an increase in the percentage of systems attacked in China (57.1%), which came fifth, according to the data released by Kaspersky Lab. Experts also discovered that the main source of threats was the Internet: attempts to download malware or access known malicious or phishing web resources were blocked on 20.4% of ICS computers. The reason of the high statistics for this type of infection lies in interfaces between corporate and industrial networks, availability of limited Internet access from industrial networks, and connection of computers on industrial networks to the Internet via mobile phone operators’ networks.
In total, Kaspersky Lab detected about 18,000 different modifications of malware on industrial automation systems in the first six months of 2017, belonging to more than 2,500 different families.
In the first half of the year the world has been facing a ransomware epidemic, which also affected industrial companies. Based on the research from Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT, the number of unique ICS computers attacked by encryption Trojans increased significantly and had tripled by June. Overall, experts discovered encryption ransomware belonging to 33 different families. Most of the encryption Trojans were distributed through spam emails disguised as part of the business communication, with either malicious attachments or links to malware downloaders.
The main ransomware statistics from the H1, 2017 report include:
- 0.5% of computers in the industrial infrastructure of organisations were attacked by encryption ransomware at least once.
- ICS computers in 63 countries across the globe faced numerous encryption ransomware attacks, the most notorious of which were the WannaCry and ExPetr campaigns.
- The WannaCry epidemic ranked highest among encryption ransomware families, with 13.4% of all computers in industrial infrastructure attacked. The most affected organisations included healthcare institutions and the government sector.
- ExPetr was another notorious encryption ransomware campaign from the first half of the year, with at least 50% of the companies attacked being from manufacturing, and Oil & Gas industries.
- The Top 10 most widespread encryption Trojan families include other ransomware families, such as Locky and Cerber, operating since 2016 and since that time have earned the highest profit for cybercriminals.
“In the first half of the year we’ve seen how weakly protected industrial systems are: pretty much all of the affected industrial computers were infected accidentally and as the result of attacks targeted initially at home users and corporate networks. In this sense, the WannaCry and ExPetr destructive ransomware attacks proved indicative, leading to the disruption of enterprise production cycles around the world, as well as logistical failures, and forced downtime in the work of medical institutions. The results of such attacks can provoke intruders into further actions. Since we are already late with preventive measures, companies should think about proactive protective measures now to avoid ‘firefighting’ in future.” says Evgeny Goncharov, Head of Critical Infrastructure Defense Department, Kaspersky Lab.
In order to protect the ICS environment from possible cyber-attacks, Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT recommends the following:
- Take an inventory of running network services with special emphasis on services that provide remote access to file system objects.
- Audit ICS component access isolation, the network activity in the enterprise’s industrial network and at its boundaries, policies and practices related to using removable media and portable devices.
- Verify the security of remote access to the industrial network as a minimum, and reduce or completely eliminate the use of remote administration tools as a maximum.
- Keep endpoint security solutions up-to-date.
- Use advanced methods of protection: deploy tools that provide network traffic monitoring and the detection of cyberattacks on industrial networks.
Crouching Yeti strikes
Kaspersky Lab has uncovered infrastructure used by the Russian-speaking APT group Crouching Yeti, also known as Energetic Bear, which includes compromised servers across the world.
According to the research, numerous servers in different countries were hit since 2016, sometimes in order to gain access to other resources. Others, including those hosting Russian websites, were used as watering holes.
Crouching Yeti is a Russian-speaking advanced persistent threat (APT) group that Kaspersky Lab has been tracking since 2010. It is best known for targeting industrial sectors around the world, with a primary focus on energy facilities, for the main purpose of stealing valuable data from victim systems. One of the techniques the group has been widely using is through watering hole attacks: the attackers injected websites with a link redirecting visitors to a malicious server.
Recently Kaspersky Lab has discovered a number of servers, compromised by the group, belonging to different organisations based in Russia, the U.S., Turkey and European countries, and not limited to industrial companies. According to researchers, they were hit in 2016 and 2017 with different purposes. Thus, besides watering hole, in some cases they were used as intermediaries to conduct attacks on other resources.
In the process of analysing infected servers, researchers identified numerous websites and servers used by organisations in Russia, U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America that the attackers had scanned with various tools, possibly to find a server that could be used to establish a foothold for hosting the attackers’ tools and to subsequently develop an attack. Some of the sites scanned may have been of interest to the attackers as candidates for waterhole. The range of websites and servers that captured the attention of the intruders is extensive. Kaspersky Lab researchers found that the attackers had scanned numerous websites of different types, including online stores and services, public organisations, NGOs, manufacturing, etc.
Also, experts found that the group used publicly available malicious tools, designed for analyzing servers, and for seeking out and collecting information. In addition, a modified sshd file with a preinstalled backdoor was discovered. This was used to replace the original file and could be authorised with a ‘master password’.
“Crouching Yeti is a notorious Russian-speaking group that has been active for many years and is still successfully targeting industrial organisations through watering hole attacks, among other techniques. Our findings show that the group compromised servers not only for establishing watering holes, but also for further scanning, and they actively used open-sourced tools that made it much harder to identify them afterwards,” said Vladimir Dashchenko, Head of Vulnerability Research Group at Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT.
“The group’s activities, such as initial data collection, the theft of authentication data, and the scanning of resources, are used to launch further attacks. The diversity of infected servers and scanned resources suggests the group may operate in the interests of the third parties,” he added.
Kaspersky Lab recommends that organisations implement a comprehensive framework against advanced threats comprising of dedicated security solutions for targeted attack detection and incident response, along with expert services and threat intelligence. As a part of Kaspersky Threat Management and Defense, our anti-targeted attack platform detects an attack at early stages by analysing suspicious network activity, while Kaspersky EDR brings improved endpoint visibility, investigation capabilities and response automation. These are enhanced with global threat intelligence and Kaspersky Lab’s expert services with specialisation in threat hunting and incident response.
More details on this recent Crouching Yeti activity can be found on the Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT website.
R5m in software fines
South African companies paid almost R5.2 million in damages for using unlicensed software in 2017 up from R3.6 million in 2016.
This is according to data from BSA | The Software Alliance, a non-profit, global trade association created to advance the goals of the software industry and its hardware partners.
The significant increase in unlicensed software payments – which includes settlements as well as the cost of acquiring new software to become compliant – is the result of more accurate leads from informers, says Darren Olivier, Partner at Adams & Adams, legal counsel for BSA. In 2017 BSA received 281 reports in South Africa alleging the use of unlicensed software products of BSA member companies – this up considerably up from 230 leads in 2016.
“BSA’s recent social media campaign also helped to create awareness among local companies about the need to comply with existing legislation in order to avoid legal action,” Olivier says.
The result has been a 13% increase in settlements paid in 2017, with the settlements total reaching almost R2.5 million.
While the average settlement paid by companies in 2017 was around R36 094, in some cases the amount owed was far greater, as is evidenced by Shereno Printers, a print and design company based in Gauteng, which ended up paying a hefty settlement amount of R260 000 last year in an out of court settlement.
The company’s case was in line with a broader trend, which saw the print and design industry as a whole rank among the top sectors plagued by unlicensed software.
Aside from settlements, companies also paid more than R2.6 million in licenses purchased to legalise their unlicensed software.
And the ramifications of software piracy extend beyond financial implications. “It also results in potential job losses and loss in tax revenue. This is not to mention the financial and reputational damage brought about by security breaches and lost data,” comments Olivier.
As unlicensed software has not been updated with the latest security features, it leaves businesses vulnerable to cyberattack, he explains.
This is a particular problem for companies operating in South Africa where economic crime has recently reached record levels, according to the Global Economic Crime Survey. Indeed, 77% of South African organisations have experienced some form of economic crime. What’s more, instances of cybercrime totalled 29% of economic crimes reported.
This in turn, raises questions around government policy and the adequacy of existing copyright legislation, which only enables the registration of copyright in films, but not in computer programs.
Olivier notes that it is likely the percentage of unlicensed software on South African computers has increased over the past year. “We received many more leads this year, which is an indicator that the amount of pirated software is greater than in previous years,” he comments.
Often unlicensed software is not so much a case of deliberate piracy as it is a result of poor software asset management (SAM).
“For this reason, the BSA encourages all businesses to ensure they have effective SAM practices in place. Companies should be able to confirm what software they are using and are licensed to use – this will help them to identify unlicensed software and can also bring about cost savings. Even the most basic SAM practices such as regular inventories and software use policies can help,” says Chair of the BSA SA Committee, Billa Coetsee.
With this in mind the BSA offers a range of SAM solutions, not only to help organisations reduce legal and security risks, but also to create business value.