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.
Cons exploit Telegram ICO
Kaspersky Lab researchers have uncovered dozens of highly convincing fake websites claiming to be investment sites for an initial coin offering (ICO) by the Telegram messaging service. Many of these websites appear to belong to the same group. In one case alone, tens of thousands of US dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency were stolen from victims believing they were investing in ‘Grams’, Telegram’s rumoured new currency. Telegram has not officially confirmed an ICO and has warned people about fraudulent investor sites.
In late 2017, stories started to circulate that the Telegram messaging service was launching an initial coin offering (ICO) to finance a blockchain platform based on its TON (Telegram Open Network) technology. Unverified technical documentation was posted online, but there appears to have been no confirmation from Telegram itself. The resulting confusion seems to have allowed fraudsters to capitalise on investor interest by creating fake sites and stealing vast sums of money.
Kaspersky Lab researchers have discovered dozens of such sites, possibly belonging to the same group, claiming to sell tokens for ‘Grams’ and inviting investors to pay with cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, lice litecoin, dash and Bitcoin dash. A record of transactions on one site revealed that the scammers were able to steal at least $35,000 US dollars’ worth of Ethereum from investors.
The researchers found that some of the websites were so convincing that even after Telegram and others began to issue warnings, they were still able to recruit potential investors. Most use a secure connection, require registration and generate a unique online wallet for each new victim, making it harder to track the money.
Judging by the content of the fake websites, it appears they may have common ownership. For example, several have the exactly the same ‘Our Team’ section.
“ICOs are a fairly risky investment and many people don’t yet fully understand how they work, so it is not surprising that high quality fake websites, with seemingly reassuring features such as a secure connection and registration are successful at luring people in. People wishing to invest in an ICO would do well to check with the company behind it and make sure they know exactly who they are giving their money to, or they may never see it again,” said Nadezhda Demidova, Lead Web-Content Analyst, Kaspersky Lab.
Kaspersky Lab offers the following advice for users considering investing in an ICO:
- Check for warning signs: for example, some of the fake Telegram ICO websites had the same wrong image next to the name of Telegram’s Chief Product Officer.
- Do your homework: always check with the brand’s official site to verify the legitimacy of the investment site and, if necessary contact the company’s ICO teams before investing any money or currency.
- Use reliable security solutions such as Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, which will warn you if you try to visit fake internet pages.
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.