April 19, 2014

Malware found in U.S. power plants, should America be worried?

us-cert logo(LiveHacking.Com) – According to a new report (pdf) released by the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT), part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, the last three months of 2012 saw at least two instances of malware infecting computers inside power generation facilities.

The first case came to ICS-CERT’s attention when it was contacted by the staff at a power generation facility. Several different bits of malware, which has been classified as both common and sophisticated, were discovered when an employee asked IT staff to inspect a USB drive used to back up control systems configurations within the control environment.

Initial analysis of the malware, found on the USB drive, raised some alarms since one of the infections was linked to known sophisticated malware. ICS-CERT engineers went on-site and took drive images of the infected hardware. The engineers also discovered two critical engineering workstations, which were infected by the malware, that had no backups, and an poor or incorrect removal of the malware would have significantly impaired the operation of the power plant.

A cleanup procedure was developed and executed together with the organization’s control system vendor to ensure that it would not adversely impact the critical workstations.

The second case happened in early October. A power company contacted ICS-CERT to inform it malware infection in a turbine control system. The malware infected around ten computers on the control system network that was down due to a scheduled outage for equipment upgrades. The infection resulted in more than planned downtime and delayed the plant restart by approximately 3 weeks.

“ICS-CERT continues to emphasize that owners and operators of critical infrastructure should develop and implement baseline security policies for maintaining up-to-date antivirus definitions, managing system patching, and governing the use of removable media. Such practices will mitigate many issues that could lead to extended system downtimes,” said the ICS-CERT report. “Defense-in-depth strategies are also essential in planning control system networks and in providing protections to reduce the risk of impacts from cyber events”

It is clear that these key infrastructural facilities need to have the correct security and backup policies and procedures in place, something which is sorely lacking at the moment.

One-third of Internet Users in Europe Were Infected by Malware in 2010

Today is Safer Internet Day and as part of the campaign to raise awareness of the many dangers of the Internet Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical office, has released some malware (including viruses, worms and Trojans) infection statistics for the EU.

In some countries in the EU over 50% of Internet users had malware problems in 2010. But even in the best countries the infection rates are alarming. 22% of German Internet users reported infections and 31% in the UK.

These malware infections resulted in 3% of the EU Internet savvy population suffering financial loss and 4% reported privacy and information loss or abuse.

According to the survey 84% of the participants use security software and tools (including anti-virus, anti-spam, firewall, etc).

Analysis: Malware threats are real and your safety online is paramount. Ensure you are using good anti-virus/anti-malware software, that you have a firewall in place and that your OS and browser are up to dat.

Stuxnet: The Industrial Sabotage Mystery Deepens

Since its discovery a few months ago, the purpose and intention of the Stuxnet worm has remained shrouded in mystery. This Windows based worm is the first ever malware designed to attack industrial equipment.

Specifically it targets Siemens’ Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) software used to control and monitor industrial processes and has the ability to reprogram Siemens’ Simatic PLCs (programmable logic controllers).

[ad code=6 align=left]

PLCs contain code to control automated industrial systems in manufacturing plants or factories. Programmers use the Siemens’ software from a Windows PC to create code and then upload their code to the PLCs. The Stuxnet worm infects the PCs and then uploads its own code to the PLC.

Since the discovery of Stuxnet, conspiracy theories about its purposes have been rampant and these theories have included nation states, well funded hackers, Israeli spies and Iran’s nuclear program. But Symantec have just revealed (http://www.symantec.com/connect/blogs/stuxnet-breakthrough) that the Stuxnet virus only attacks systems with variable-frequency drives from two specific vendors: Vacon based in Finland and Fararo Paya based in Iran. This is sure to reignite the speculations about its target and origin.

What Stuxnet does is monitor the frequency of these drives and only attacks systems that run between 807Hz and 1210Hz which is very high and only used in particular industrial applications. Stuxnet then modifies the output frequency for a short time to 1410Hz and then to 2Hz and then to 1064Hz and thus effects the operation of the connected motors.

Stuxnet’s requirement for particular frequency converter drives and operating characteristics focuses the number of possible speculated targets to a limited set of possibilities.

If you work with PLCs and variable-frequency drives over 807Hz please contact Live Hacking as soon as possible as you might be able to shed some light on this increasingly mysterious malware.