DarkReading | Ukraine Railway, Mining Company Attacked with BlackEnergy


DarkReading covers the Ukraine railway, mining company recently attacked with BlackEnergy. Leader in cybersecurity for industrial control systems, Mission Secure's Chief Cyber Architect, Dean Weber, comments on the attack and what it means for the industry at large.

The hacking of industrial control systems at the railway and mining companies in Ukraine, if true, represent a troubling expansion of the BlackEnergy campaign, says Dean Weber, chief cyber architect at Mission Secure Inc., which specializes in control systems security.

The attack on Ukraine’s power grid represents the first time since Stuxnet degraded Iran’s uranium processing capability in 2010 that a cyberattack has been used to cause a physical outcome, he says.

To pull it off, the attackers basically appear to have compromised a human-machine interface (HMI) system at Prykarpattya Oblenergo and used the access to instruct the underlying industrial control system to open a series of circuit breakers causing power to be shut down in multiple areas, Weber says. Some have attributed the attack to a Russian hacking group dubbed the Sandworm team, which has been associated with BlackEnergy related attacks on energy companies in the US and Europe for years, he notes.

Though an inspection of the compromised system at the Ukraine power distributor revealed the presence of BlackEnergy 3 and KillDisk, security researchers are not entirely sure what role the malware played in actually leading to the switches being thrown open.

BlackEnergy has been floating around since 2011 and was originally used to collect information from industrial control systems. The US ICS-CERT -- which yesterday issued a new YARA signature for detecting BlackEnergy -- recently confirmed that several US organizations have reported infections on Windows-based human-machine interface systems (HMI) that are used to interact with back-end industrial control systems...

“Everybody should be up at night about this,” MSi's Weber says. “Everything that relies on an industrial control system, whether it be an oil and gas facility, a pipeline, a ship or a power generator, are run by HMIs,” and such an attack shows how they could be compromised.

 

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