In 2022, more 40 percent of operational technology (OT) computers were affected by malicious objects, according to the ICS threat landscape report by Kaspersky ICS CERT. In South Asia, the percentage of ICS computers on which malware was detected in H2 2022 is lower than the global average (30.3%).
H2 2022 was the period with the highest rate of attacks against industrial sectors with 27% of computers affected in India. The second half of the last year was also marked by a rising number of attacks carried out using malicious scripts, phishing pages (JS and HTML) and denylisted resources. Attacks on automotive manufacturing and energy sector showed unprecedented growth and accounted for 28.3% percent and 29.3% of all industries in South Asia.
In H2 2022, Kaspersky security solutions blocked malware from 7,684 different families on industrial automation systems, such as building automation, automotive, oil and gas, energy and engineering. This number is slightly more (6%) compared with the previous half of the year and almost 1.5 times more than in the second half of 2021. Overall, the 2022 ended up being the year that accounts for the highest percentage of OT computers affected by malware (40.6%).
In terms of malware categories, only the two top rankings showed growth in the second half of 2022, namely – malicious scripts and phishing pages (JS and HTML) and denylisted internet resources. Other categories of malicious objects either decreased or remained unchanged.
Malicious scripts and phishing pages (JS and HTML) are distributed both online and via email. A significant part of denylisted internet resources are used to distribute malicious scripts and phishing pages.
Threat actors use malicious scripts for a broad range of tasks – from collecting information, tracking activity, and redirecting browser requests to malicious web resources, to downloading various malicious programs or loading malware (spyware or tools for covert cryptocurrency mining) in the user’s browser.
When observing geographical regions, India has been highly affected by malicious scripts and phishing pages (9.6%) and secondly by denylisted internet resources (8.7%) while Africa, Middle East, Asia and Latin America top regional rankings with most OT computers compromised using removable devices.
Unexpectedly, Serbia (7.5%) was in the third place in country rankings affected by web miners, and Northern Europe became the only region that showed a growth in ransomware attacks and malware spread via email clients. Also, two Balkan countries (Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina) led the TOP 10 countries attacked via email rating (having 16.7% of attacked OT computers both), which was surprising as well.
The situation varied in different industries. As for H2 2022, the automotive industry (+4.6 p.p.) and energy sector (+1 p.p.) showed growth in terms of the OT computers that were affected. In other industries tracked, the percentage decreased.
“Overall, 2022 stands out for its abnormal absence of any seasonal changes. Our team observed a steadily high rate of attacks on industrial sectors – without a typical drop in attacks during summer vacations or winter holidays period. However, the growing attack rates in industrial sectors, that are being conducted using social engineering, seem alarming. We strongly recommend customers in these sectors to revise their existing approach to security and check whether all security systems are up-to-date and their personnel is well-trained,” comments Kirill Kruglov, senior researcher at Kaspersky ICS CERT.
Read more about the ICS threat landscape in H2 2022 on the Kaspersky ICS CERT website.
To keep your OT computers protected from various threats, Kaspersky experts recommend:
Conducting regular security assessments of OT systems to identify and eliminate possible cyber security issues.
Establishing continuous vulnerability assessment and triage as a basement for effective vulnerability management process. Dedicated solutions like Kaspersky Industrial CyberSecurity may become an efficient assistant and a source of unique actionable information, not fully available in public.
Performing timely updates for the key components of the enterprise’s OT network; applying security fixes and patches or implementing compensating measures as soon as it is technically possible is crucial for preventing a major incident that might cost millions due to the interruption of the production process.
Using EDR solutions such as Kaspersky Endpoint Detection and Response for timely detection of sophisticated threats, investigation, and effective remediation of incidents.
Improving the response to new and advanced malicious techniques by building and strengthening your teams’ incident prevention, detection, and response skills. Dedicated OT security trainings for IT security teams and OT personnel is one of the key measures helping to achieve this.