Ransomware’s Favorite Target: Critical Infrastructure and Its Industrial Control Systems

National defense and security experts long predicted that future warfare would not be waged by firearms but with code designed to disable services people depend on for daily life.

In May 2021, security experts’ worst fears came true, when a ransomware attack struck the Colonial Pipeline. Gas delivery to most of the US Northeast halted almost overnight. Although systems were eventually restored, the event still lives in infamy today and reminds us of the destructive potential cyberattacks can have when levied against critical infrastructure. Since then, similar infrastructure attacks have dominated headlines across most of the world and are increasingly carried out by non-state-sponsored actors.

In our “Q2/Q3 Ransomware Index Update,” Securin (formerly Cyber Security Works) researchers mapped out the impact of ransomware on industrial control systems (ICS) deployed in critical infrastructure establishments. They identified the three most at-risk sectors: healthcare, energy, and manufacturing. Our researchers also examined 16 ransomware vulnerabilities and the bad actors who exploit them, such as Ryuk, Conti, WannaCry, and Petya. We have included a table at the end of the article with the full list of vulnerabilities and impacted vendors.

With each successful attack, ransomware groups grow bolder and target industries that can cause the most pain to exploit the crises for maximum extortion. Understanding the threat actors and their methods is the key to protecting critical industries and maintaining smooth operations.

Ransomware CVEs affecting ICS products yet to be included in the CISA KEVs (as on date of publishing the report).

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