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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Malware attacks SCADA network to mine cryptocurrency

By Nick Flaherty

Radiflow has revealed the first documented cryptocurrency malware attack on a SCADA network of a critical infrastructure operator.

The attack infected several servers in the network of a water company to mine the Monero cryptocurrency.

Such a malware attack increases device CPU and network bandwidth consumption, causing the response times of tools used to monitor physical changes on a real time network, such as HMI and SCADA servers, to be severely impaired. This, in turn, reduces the control a critical infrastructure operator has over its operations and slows down its response times to operational problems.

Radiflow's research team uncovered that this cryptocurrency malware was designed to run in a stealth mode on a computer or device and even disable its security tools in order to operate undetected and maximise its mining processes for as long as possible.

"Cryptocurrency malware attacks involve extremely high CPU processing and network bandwidth consumption, which can threaten the stability and availability of the physical processes of a critical infrastructure operator," said Yehonatan Kfir, CTO at Radiflow. "While it is known that ransomware attacks have been launched on such networks, this new case of a cryptocurrency malware attack on an OT network poses new threats as it runs in stealth mode and can remain undetected over time."

The attack was discovered by Radiflow's iSID industrial intrusion detection system while monitoring the network of the waste water site of a utility customer. iSID identified and alerted in real-time to several abnormalities, including unexpected HTTP communications and changes to the topology of the customer's network as well as communication attempts with suspicious IP addresses.

"PCs that run sensitive HMI and SCADA applications cannot get the latest Windows, antivirus and other important updates and will always be vulnerable to malware attacks," said Kfir. "The best way to address this risk is using an intrusion detection system that passively monitors the communication in the network and detects anomalies in real-time caused by such malware."

Radiflow's research team is continuing to research the events surrounding this malware attack in close cooperation with local regulatory authorities.

"We are very proud to report that our technology has prevented this potentially damaging attack. Given the attractiveness of cryptocurrency mining and its increasing need for processing power, we will not be surprised if we will continue to see such attacks on other such networks," said Ilan Barda, CEO of Radiflow. "This case emphasises the need for a holistic cybersecurity solution for such networks, including access control, intrusion detection and analytics services with the relevant expertise."

Radiflow's Industrial Intrusion Detection System passively learns and maps a real time operational network, providing visibility and situational awareness, and alerts in real-time for any anomalies in unexpected network behaviours. 

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