Info-tech

Cyber threats against industrial control systems began rising in H2 2020: Report

Mumbai | Updated on April 11, 2021

33.4 per cent ICS computers were attacked in H2 2020 globally

Cyber threats against industrial control systems are on the rise, according to a report by cybersecurity firm Kaspersky.

As per the report, while the percentage of ICS computers on which malicious objects were blocked had declined since the second half of 2019, the number again started to rise in the second half of 2020.

Globally, 33.4 per cent ICS computers were attacked in H2 2020, an increase of 0.85 percentage points. The percentage of ICS computers attacked in the engineering and ICS integration sector grew by nearly 8 percentage points.

Of those industries examined by Kaspersky researchers, building automation had the highest number of ICS computers attacked at 46.7 per cent, an increase of nearly 7 percentage points from H1 2020, oil & gas at 44 per cent, an increase of 6.2 percentage points from H1 2020, and engineering and ICS integration at 39.3 per cent, an increase of nearly 8 percentage points.

Threats to the oil & gas and building automation industries have been on the rise since H1 2019, as per the report.

Overall, the percentage of ICS computers attacked increased in 62 per cent of the countries examined by Kaspersky researchers and across all five industries studied.

"Attacks against industrial organizations always carry the potential to be particularly devastating, both in terms of disruption to production and financial losses. In addition, because of the highly sensitive information industrial organizations possess, they tend to be an attractive target for attackers," Kaspersky said.

The variety of malware families used against ICS systems increased by 30 per cent in H2 2020 as compared to H1 2020. The most prominent threats were backdoors (dangerous Trojans that gain remote control over the infected device), spyware (malicious programs designed to steal data), other types of Trojans, and malicious scripts and documents.

Overall, 62 per cent of the countries examined by Kaspersky researchers experienced a growth in the percentage of ICS computers attacked. Furthermore, the percentage of ICS computers on which malicious email attachments were blocked grew in 73.4 per cent of all countries examined (in comparison to 23.6 per cent in H2 2019), increasing on average globally by 0.7 percentage points.

“2020 was an unusual year in nearly all aspects, and this appears to have led to some unusual trends across the ICS threat landscape. We typically see a decline in the percentage of ICS computers attacked in the summer months and December as people go on holiday. However, with borders closed and countries on lockdown, it’s likely many didn’t take their vacation, and we did not see any noticeable decrease,” said Evgeny Goncharov, Head of ICS CERT at Kaspersky.

“In addition, while ransomware attacks declined globally, in developed countries, such as the US and Western Europe, the number of attacks actually significantly increased—perhaps because, amidst the current economic downturn, criminals thought these places had businesses with the means to actually pay. With the pandemic still ongoing, it will be important that all industries take extra precautions; with the rest of the world in flux, it’s hard to predict what cybercriminals will do,” added Goncharov.

Published on April 11, 2021

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