Trend Micro Warns of Ransomware Targeting Industrial Control Systems

Trend Micro Vision One Stops Threats Faster, Streamlines Operations and Cuts Costs

Trend Micro Vision One Stops Threats Faster, Streamlines Operations and Cuts Costs

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Trend Micro Incorporated (TYO: 4704; TSE: 4704), a global cybersecurity leader, today released a new report highlighting the growing risk of downtime and sensitive data theft from ransomware attacks aimed at industrial facilities. 

Industrial Control Systems (ICS) are a crucial element of utility plants, factories and other facilities—where they’re used to monitor and control industrial processes across IT-OT networks. If ransomware finds its way onto these systems, it could knock out operations for days and increase the risk of designs, programs, and other sensitive documents finding their way onto the dark web.  

According to the ‘2020 Report on Threats Affecting ICS Endpoints’ by Trend Micro, the US is by far the country with the most ransomware detections affecting ICSs, with India, Taiwan, and Spain a far second. India has the most coinminer, Equated malware, and WannaCry ransomware detections. Also, legacy malware (particularly worms in removable drives and file infecting viruses) had the most detections in India, China, the US, and Taiwan.  

“ICSs are incredibly challenging to secure, leaving plenty of gaps in protection that threat actors are clearly exploiting with growing determination. Using malware detections as one of the criteria of IT/OT networks’ cybersecurity readiness can improve the organizations’ security posture and, in turn, better protect ICS endpoints. This prevents unintended downtime and the loss of view and control. For ransomware, companies should be wary of cybercriminals’ big-game hunting and security issues that are used by both the legacy malware and the latest attack trends should be addressed,” said Vijendra Katiyar, Country Manager, India & SAARC, Trend Micro

Trend Micro’s report found that Ryuk (20%), Nefilim (14.6%), Sodinokibi (13.5%) and LockBit (10.4%) variants accounted for more than half of ICS ransomware infections in 2020.  

The report also revealed:

  • Threat actors are infecting ICS endpoints to mine for cryptocurrency using unpatched operating systems still vulnerable to EternalBlue. 
  • Variants of Conficker are spreading on ICS endpoints running newer operating systems by brute-forcing admin shares. 
  • Legacy malware such as Autorun, Gamarue and Palevo are still widespread in IT/OT networks, spreading via removable drives.

The report urged closer cooperation between IT security and OT teams to identify key systems and dependencies such as OS compatibility and up-time requirements, with a view to developing more effective security strategies.  

Trend Micro makes the following recommendations:

  • Prompt patching is vital. If this is not possible, consider network segmentation or virtual patching from vendors like Trend Micro. 
  • Tackle post-intrusion ransomware by mitigating the root causes of infection via application control software, and threat detection and response tools to sweep networks for IoCs. 
  • Restrict network shares and enforce strong username/password combinations to prevent unauthorized access through credential brute forcing.  
  • Use an IDS or IPS to baseline normal network behavior to better spot suspicious activity. 
  • Scan ICS endpoints in air-gapped environments using standalone tools. 
  • Set up USB malware scanning kiosks to check the removable drives used to transfer data between air-gapped endpoints. 
  • Apply principle of least privilege to OT network admins and operators. 

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