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THREAT LANDSCAPE FOR THE ICS ENGINEERING AND INTEGRATION SECTOR. 2020 Threat landscape for the ICS engineering and integration sector. ICS reports

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THREAT LANDSCAPE FOR THE ICS ENGINEERING

AND INTEGRATION SECTOR. 2020

1

© 2021 AO KASPERSKY LAB

Threat landscape for the ICS

engineering

and integration sector. 2020

ICS reports service

Version: 1.0 (17.03.2021)

The threat landscape for computers in the ICS engineering and integration sector varies

depending on a computer’s environment, including its geographical location, ability to access

external networks and services, and user behavior.

Object of research

For this research we have analyzed cyberthreats blocked on computers used to

engineer, configure and maintain industrial control equipment and software on

which various software packages for the ICS engineering and integration

industry are installed, including human-machine interface (HMI), OPC gateway,

engineering, control and data acquisition software.

A key aspect in which of the ICS engineering sector is different from other

industries is that an ICS engineering computer often has direct and indirect

connections to various industrial control systems, some of which may even

belong to other industrial enterprises. And while an ICS engineering computer

has more access rights and fewer restrictions (such as application control,

device control, etc.) than the average ICS computer, it also has a wider attack

surface. A typical ICS engineering computer:

• allows the user to install any software;

• provides access to both ICS and corporate networks simultaneously;

• is used to access the internet, email services, network file shares and

instant messengers.

At the same time, we noticed that ICS engineering environments normally react

to new threats much faster than the average ICS computer environment. In a

typical ICS environment, a computer can be repeatedly hit by the same malware

(often by the same threat) due to a constant source of infection, which is

normally not the case for the environment at an ICS engineering company.

THREAT LANDSCAPE FOR THE ICS ENGINEERING

AND INTEGRATION SECTOR. 2020

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© 2021 AO KASPERSKY LAB

The percentage of computers on which malware

was blocked

In H2 2020, Kaspersky products were triggered on 39.3% of computers in the ICS

engineering and integration sector. The percentage of computers in the ICS

engineering and integration sector on which malware was blocked in H2 2020

(39.3%) was higher than the percentage for H1 2020 (31.5%). The last six months

of 2020 also saw an increase in the percentages for several industries, including

building automation, automotive manufacturing, energy and oil & gas, though the

biggest increase (7.8 p.p.) was in the ICS engineering sector.

Percentage of ICS computers on which malware was blocked by industry

H2 2019 – H2 2020

The threat landscape for computers in the ICS engineering and integration

sector varies depending on a computer’s environment, including its geographical

location, ability to access external networks and services, and user behavior.

Geography

In Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and North America the percentage of ICS

computers in ICS engineering environments that had malware blocked on them

in H2 2020 was higher than the percentage for H1 2020. This was in contrast to

Africa, Russia and Europe where the percentage for H2 2020 was lower than that

for H1 2020.

THREAT LANDSCAPE FOR THE ICS ENGINEERING

AND INTEGRATION SECTOR. 2020

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© 2021 AO KASPERSKY LAB

Top regions by percentage of computers in the ICS engineering sector

on which malware was blocked, H1-H2 2020

The North America region demonstrated the highest percentage increase (15.1

p.p.) in H2 2020 (22.8%), mainly associated with an increase in the number of

web-miners blocked. The second region showing a significant percentage

increase (12.7 p.p.) in H2 2020 (54.6%) compared to H1 2020 (41.9%) was the

Middle East. The increase in the Middle East region was mostly due to an

outbreak of Fast-Load AutoLISP modules that spread within infected AutoCAD

projects and other self-propagating worms that spread via USB.

ICS engineering companies in southern and eastern regions of Europe mainly

encountered phishing emails that were used to deliver spyware and

cryptominers, which are usually capable of spreading inside a network either

automatically or manually. These worms use various techniques for network

propagation, like credentials abuse, exploitation of vulnerabilities (SMB, MS SQL,

RDP, etc.) and brute forcing credentials.

Environment

The environment of a computer in the ICS engineering and integration sector

significantly affects the computer’s threat landscape. For instance, an isolated

computer is likely to be less vulnerable to attacks than a computer that has

access to the internet or that is used outside a secured network perimeter (e.g.,

laptops).

THREAT LANDSCAPE FOR THE ICS ENGINEERING

AND INTEGRATION SECTOR. 2020

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© 2021 AO KASPERSKY LAB

Laptops vs. desktops

Our dataset shows the proportion of laptop (29.7%) and desktop (70.3%)

computers used in ICS engineering and integration.

Proportion of laptop and desktop computers

in the ICS engineering sector, H2 2020

Compared with desktop computers, laptop computers used in the ICS

engineering sector show a higher rate of threats delivered with internet content,

removable media devices, email clients and network folders.

Threat sources by percentage of computers in the ICS engineering sector

on which malware was blocked, desktop computers vs. laptops, H1-H2 2020

This means that a laptop used in the ICS engineering sector usually has less

protection (more vulnerable to attack) than a desktop, and at the same time

laptops usually have the same permissions as secured desktops in an ICS

environment.

THREAT LANDSCAPE FOR THE ICS ENGINEERING

AND INTEGRATION SECTOR. 2020

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© 2021 AO KASPERSKY LAB

VPN software

Both laptop and desktop computers used in ICS engineering and integration can

be broken down into groups of computers that use VPN software (15%) and

those that don’t (85%), and analyzed further.

Proportion of computers in the ICS engineering and integration sector

with and without VPN software, H2 2020

Computers in the ICS engineering sector that use VPN software clearly have a

smaller attack surface and, in particular, encounter fewer of the internet threats

that are usually delivered along with the content of web services. That’s

probably because those using VPN software tend to be more security conscious

or the configuration of their VPN tunnel is designed to route all the traffic

through the tunnel, which may have network security measures in place to filter

out dangerous content.

At the same time, computers with VPN software show a higher percentage of

threats delivered via removable media and network folders.

THREAT LANDSCAPE FOR THE ICS ENGINEERING

AND INTEGRATION SECTOR. 2020

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© 2021 AO KASPERSKY LAB

Threat sources by percentage of ICS computers with and without VPN software

in the ICS engineering sector on which malware was blocked, H1-H2 2020

From time to time, the various viruses and worms that have been spreading for a

decade between computers in ICS environments via USB devices or network

folders hit the computers of ICS engineers. Such threats were blocked more

often on computers with VPN software.

Remote access software

In addition to analyzing computers with and without VPN software, we also

analyzed groups of computers with and without remote access software (64.6%

and 35.4% respectively).

Proportion of computers in ICS engineering and integration

with and without remote access software, H2 2020

THREAT LANDSCAPE FOR THE ICS ENGINEERING

AND INTEGRATION SECTOR. 2020

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© 2021 AO KASPERSKY LAB

Both groups (computers in the ICS engineering sector with and without remote

access software) have a fairly similar threat landscape except for threats

delivered with internet content – the percentage for this type of threat is

significantly lower for computers on which remote access software has been

used.

Threat sources by percentage of ICS computers with and without remote access software

in the ICS engineering sector on which malware was blocked, H1-H2 2020

Some computers that use remote access software evidently also use VPN

software, meanwhile using internet less frequently than computers without

remote access software.

Although computers using remote access software show a lower percentage of

internet threats, we encounter many cases of attacks on network services such

as SMB, MS SQL and RDP. The majority of these attacks are due to worm

outbreaks in a subnet (physical or virtual). Those worms use Mimikatz and spread

over the network by abusing stolen credentials, exploiting an RCE vulnerability or

by successfully running brute-force attacks on a network service.

The full report is available on Kaspersky Threat Intelligence.

For more information please contact [email protected]

THREAT LANDSCAPE FOR THE ICS ENGINEERING

AND INTEGRATION SECTOR. 2020

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© 2021 AO KASPERSKY LAB

Recommendations

The following measures are necessary to ensure adequate protection of ICS

systems:

• Ensure that ICS engineering computers and especially laptops are well

protected from network attacks, web-based threats and phishing

campaigns, including targeted attacks. To achieve this, consider using

modern threat detection technologies – both at the network perimeter

and on all endpoints inside and outside the perimeter.

• Install all OS and application software updates in a timely fashion, with

particular emphasis on security updates, or apply workaround protection

measures when installing updates is not an option.

• Regularly train employees to recognize suspicious behavior by a

computer or application, as well as fraudulent emails and instant

messages.

• If possible, restrict the use of any unnecessary but dangerous and/or

vulnerable software that widens the attack surface, including remote

access software, office solutions, PowerShell, Windows Script Host, etc.

• Monitor the execution of files in the organization and use application

control with Default Deny to limit the use of applications to only those

apps that are allowed.

• Restrict the use of USB devices to only those that are trusted and

encrypted. The implementation of such restrictions should be monitored.

Many modern host protection tools include the necessary functionality.

• Use different accounts for different users. Manage the rights of user and

service accounts in such a way as to prevent an infection from spreading

across the enterprise if an account is compromised. Log and monitor the

use of administrator functions.

• Restrict the rights of users on their systems, as well as corporate service

access rights, leaving the minimal set of rights required for specific

employees to perform their work.

• Maximize granular access control. Limit the use of privileged accounts.

When possible, admins should use accounts with local administration

privileges or with administration rights to specific services and avoid using

accounts with domain administration rights.

• Audit the use of privileged accounts and regularly review access rights.

• Use group policies that require users to change their passwords on a

regular basis. Introduce password strength requirements.

• Configure the OS to always show file extensions for all file types in order

to see files with double extensions (a tactic used to trick users).

THREAT LANDSCAPE FOR THE ICS ENGINEERING

AND INTEGRATION SECTOR. 2020

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© 2021 AO KASPERSKY LAB

Kaspersky Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (Kaspersky ICS CERT)

is a global project of Kaspersky aimed at coordinating the efforts of automation system vendors,

industrial facility owners and operators, and IT security researchers to protect industrial enterprises

from cyberattacks. Kaspersky ICS CERT devotes its efforts primarily to identifying potential and

existing threats that target industrial automation systems and the industrial internet of things.

Kaspersky ICS CERT [email protected]

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