Analysis

Nine out of ten critical infra establishments hit by cyber attacks: Ponemon

Security professionals in critical infra sectors across six countries revealed that 90 percent of them were hit by a cyber attack at some point in time, according to Ponemon Institute's latest research. We take a look at some of the most infamous ones.

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The issue of cyber attacks on critical infrastructure is turning into a throbbing migraine. A Ponemon Institute research report sponsored by Tenable surveyed 701 establishments that were dependent on industrial control systems and operational technology (OT).

The report revealed that 90 percent of the surveyed establishments experienced at least one damaging cyber attack in the last two years. Think that’s bad? Now hear this – 62 percent of these establishments experienced two or more attacks.
Lack of visibility, inadequate security staffing and dependency on manual processes undermine operational technology sectors.

The report brought to light the perils the operational technology sector is subjected to. OT environments are subjected to continuous and relentless cyber attacks; the sector is wary about significant threats arising from third parties and possibilities of nation-state attacks.

Tenable, the sponsor of the research, stated to BBC that the proliferation of smart devices and sensors and IoT increases exposure to cyber-attacks.
 

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Critical infrastructure a prime target in hackers’ crosshairs

Eugene Kaspersky has been quite vocal in sharing his concerns around cyber attacks on critical infrastructure. And his reasons are well-founded. Countries across the globe have experienced crippling attacks on critical infrastructure. A cyber attack of significant magnitude has the potential to bring a country down on its knees.

Let’s take a quick look at some infamous cyber-attacks on critical infra across the globe:

Critical malware comes close to blowing up a Saudi petrochemical plant: The most recent of these attacks surfaced in Saudi Arabia when FireEye researchers revealed that a particularly potent malware called Triton threatened to find its way into the plant’s control systems and take over the safety instrumented system. 

What’s worrisome is that this is Triton’s second attempt at sabotaging the plant. In August, last year, the plant would have been destroyed had it not been for a minor glitch in the code.

Cyber attack creates a blackout in Ukraine: In December 2015, a crippling attack left over 230,000 Ukranian citizens in the dark for hours.

North Korean hackers cripple the SWIFT banking system: The SWIFT messaging system, pretty much the backbone for international monetary transactions was targeted by North Korean hackers in 2015 and 2016 as well. The targeted attacks resulted in millions of dollars being swindled. 

Wolf Creek nuclear power plant in the US falls prey to spear-phishing: In July 2017, the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corp. in Kansas, USA came precariously close to a take-over by Russian hackers. The FBI revealed that the infamous cyber intrusion incident was a result of email spear-phishing.

South Korea holds North Korea responsible for nuclear reactor hack: North Korea has found itself in the midst of quite a few notorious cyber attacks. In March 2015, investigations revealed that internet addresses tracing back to North Korea could have been the origin of targeted cyber attacks on nuclear reactors in South Korea.

Hackers blare AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ on Iranian nuclear power plant’s computers: The big daddy of all critical infra cyber attacks is undoubtedly the infamous 2010 incident in which American and Israeli hackers took control of computers in an Iranian nuclear power plant and played AC/DC’s hit number ‘Thunderstruck’ in full blast. At the same time, the hackers took control of the nuclear facility and sent its centrifuges into an overdrive, ruining the nuclear material the plant was working on.