A new kind of malware with the ability to take down an entire city’s electrical and power grid has been detected.

The malware was identified after an attack on the Kiev power grid in 2016, leaving the northern part of the capital without electricity. Researchers at ESET found that the malware is capable of controlling electricity substation switches and circuit breakers directly through the use of industrial communication protocols.

Industroyer uses protocols in a common fashion, and its core component is a backdoor that attackers use to install and control the components. The malware then connects to a remote server in order to receive commands and reports back to the attackers.

What’s different about Industroyer is its use of four payload components, designed to gain complete control of electrical switches and circuit breakers. The malware also uses Tor software in order to communicate privately with command and control servers while a second backdoor is designed to reclaim access to the targeted network in case the main backdoor is detected or disabled.

ESET is not able to confirm that the Industroyer malware was the direct cause of the Ukrainian power outage, however, they do believe there is some correlation. The malware used in the power outage directly controlled the switches and circuit breakers using the four ICS protocols and contained an activation timestamp of December 17, 2016, the day of the Kiev power outages.

This attack made in 2016 should have served as a wake-up call for those responsible for the security of critical infrastructure systems around the world. But for those who are still vulnerable, NNT has a few suggestions on how to defend your organization from attack. First and foremost your organization should be using the CIS Controls. Secondly, your organization must secure and harden configuration of industrials networks and systems and continuously remediate known vulnerabilities.

 

 

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