The US Government Discovers Malicious Software Targeting the Energy Sector 

On April 13th, 2020, the cybersecurity and infrastructure agency, the national security agency, and the FBI released a joint statement warning of persistent threat actors. The US government warned that actors deploy specialized malware to access the full system in the energy sector and other critical industries.

Multiple US agencies released the statement after discovering a bunch of malicious tools that allow hackers to execute functions such as:

  • Scanning devices and data
  • Compromising systems
  • Controlling the affected device after establishing initial access to the operational technology network

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The Core Target of Hacking Tools

According to the joint federal advisory, the custom-made hacking tools that the malicious actors deployed specifically target PLCs (electronic programmable logic controllers) and open platform communications unified architecture servers.

The malicious software enabled the hackers to break into Windows-based engineering workstations across operational technology networks in industries and IT networks. Hackers can do this by compromising a specific type of motherboard driver to execute malicious code in the Windows kernel.

The Intent of the Malicious Actor

The U.S. government says that the hackers intend to access industrial control systems (ICS), elevate their privileges, move within the network, and cripple mission-critical functions in the electric power environment and liquefied natural gas industry.

The malware that the hackers deploy can allow them to disrupt business operations, degrade, and possibly destroy an operational technology depending on environments and targets.

One malicious software the government has identified is the “PIPEDREAM.” The hack tool has five components that help it accomplish its goal, such as:

  • Conducting reconnaissance
  • Hijacking target devices
  • Interfering with the execution logic of controllers
  • Disrupting PLCs
  • Losing safety and control of an industrial environment

The malware is versatile and capable of reprogramming, allowing the malicious actor to shut down industrial systems and manipulate the operational environment.

State-Sponsored Cyberattacks Speculations

Although the official government statement does not release the creators or the threat actors of these malicious tools, many private sectors speculate that these tools have similar ties to Russian-backed malicious tools.

The malware that the government has discovered shows exceptional cyberattack capabilities. The hack tools can disable an industry safety system and sabotage its operations.

Such attack capabilities have raised concerns over 80% of businesses about state-sponsored cyber threats.

How Hackers Create and Distribute Malicious Hacking Tools

Many people don’t understand that hackers don’t typically create hacking tools. A few select people in the entire energy industry are highly intelligent and capable of creating hacking tools to exploit vulnerable industrial systems. A small group of highly intelligent people build the hacking tools and sell them to whoever can purchase them at a high bid.

Businesses and anyone willing to protect themselves and data should pause and reconsider their cybersecurity. You don’t have to be the specific target of the malicious actor or rogue people in a specific country.

You can be a target of someone willing to buy the right hack tool at the right price and actively distribute them in multiple methods.

While there are several ways a malicious actor can spread the hacking tool, the highest distribution rate is in email. Over 80% of the most malicious tool are distributed through email. You can take several security measures to mitigate potential threats and ensure organization devices are safe.

Measure to Protect Yourself and Your Business From Malicious Hacking Tools

There are a gazillion ways you can protect yourself and your business from malicious hacking tools. However, the biggest thing you can do today is to be prepared.

Start conversing with your cybersecurity experts about how to prepare your business. Your cybersecurity team should help you prepare your business by enforcing measures such as:

Multifactor Authentication for Remote Access

Multifactor authentication is a security measure that makes users pass multiple security tests before gaining access to an account. When hackers and their hacking systems try to take over your business system, they’ll have a harder time.

The harder to crack your system, the more likely the attacker will choose other people as targets. Multifactor authentication offers additional security to passwords.

Talk with your cybersecurity experts to help devise a multifactor authentication for remote access to reduce the risk of compromised passwords.

24/7/365 hours Network Monitoring

Internet security is more than installing network antivirus and firewall. Your business network needs a 24/7/365 system to detect and deter network threats.

The right network monitoring system will help you prepare for any malware attack or when a hacker compromises your network security. Your IT team should offer your business network monitoring services that prepare you to face any network challenge.

Install and Maintain Firewalls

Firewalls are critical in protecting you from cyberattacks by controlling and monitoring incoming and outgoing network traffic.

You must develop, implement, and adjust firewall rules apart from installation. In case of a threat, your cyber experts should be able to detect and respond to incidents.

Create Cyber Awareness Among Your Employees

An unaware staff member can be the end of your business. When your staff lacks a proper understanding of cybercrime threats, they can’t defend you against malicious actors targeting your business.

Cyber experts can conduct security awareness training to help your employees safely use your technology.

Cyber Warfare Protection

Cyberattacks have become the biggest concern for businesses. The threat of state-sponsored cybercrime, data breaches, and major IT outages gives business owners sleepless nights.

Your IT partners should be able to inform you about the risks associated with cyber warfare and help protect your business from attacks. Your business has many cybersecurity measures it can take. Talk with your IT team to protect your business in the best way possible.

Mainstreet IT Solutions Can Help Your Business Prepare for Cybersecurity Threat

Regardless of your IT team, you need to have a conversation to develop a cybersecurity solution for your business. Each business is unique — operating and protecting data differently.

If you don’t have an IT professional to help you out, we’d love to have that conversation with you. Contact Mainstreet IT Solution today to help create cyber warfare protection that addresses your needs.

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