Mysterious safety-tampering malware infects a second critical infrastructure site

Sixteen months ago, researchers reported an unsettling escalation in hacks targeting power plants, gas refineries, and other types of critical infrastructure. Attackers who may have been working on behalf of a nation caused an operational outage at a critical-infrastructure site after deliberately targeting a system that prevented health- and life-threatening accidents.

There had been compromises of critical infrastructure sites before. What was unprecedented in this attack—and of considerable concern to some researchers and critical infrastructure operators—was the use of an advanced piece of malware that targeted the unidentified site’s safety processes. Such safety instrumented systems (SIS) are a combination of hardware and software that many critical infrastructure sites use to prevent unsafe conditions from arising. When gas fuel pressures or reactor temperatures rise to potentially unsafe thresholds, for instance, a SIS will automatically close valves or initiate cooling processes to prevent health- or life-threatening accidents.FURTHER READINGRussia was likely behind dangerous critical infrastructure attack, report says

By focusing on the site’s SIS, the malware carried the threat of physical destruction that, depending on the site and the type of accident, had the potential to be serious if not catastrophic. The malware was alternately named Triton and Trisis, because it targeted the Triconex product line made by Schneider Electric. Its development was ultimately linked to a Russian government-backed research institute.

Now, researchers at FireEye—the same security firm that discovered Triton and its ties to Russia—say they have uncovered an additional intrusion that used the same malicious software framework against a different critical infrastructure site. As was the case in the first intrusion, the attackers focused most of their resources on the facility’s OT, or operational technology, which are systems for monitoring and managing physical processes and devices.

“After establishing an initial foothold on the corporate network, the Triton actor focused most of their effort on gaining access to the OT network,” FireEye researchers wrote in a report published Wednesday. “They did not exhibit activities commonly associated with espionage, such as using key loggers and screenshot grabbers, browsing files, and/or exfiltrating large amounts of information. Most of the attack tools they used were focused on network reconnaissance, lateral movement, and maintaining presence in the target environment.”


Read More...