12 Feb 2018

First documented cryptocurrency malware attack on a SCADA network

Radiflow, a provider of cybersecurity solutions for critical infrastructure, has announced that the company has revealed the first documented cryptocurrency malware attack on a SCADA network of a critical infrastructure operator.

Radiflow discovered this cryptocurrency malware attack as part of routine and ongoing monitoring of the OT network of a water utility customer. The company reports that the attack infected several servers in the OT network in order to mine the Monero cryptocurrency.

This type of attack increases device CPU and network bandwidth consumption, causing the response times of tools used to monitor physical changes on an OT network, such as HMI and SCADA servers, to be severely impaired. This in turn reduces the control a critical infrastructure operator has over its operations and slows down its response times to operational problems.

Radiflow’s research team uncovered that this cryptocurrency malware was designed to run in a stealth mode on a computer or device and even disable its security tools in order to operate undetected and maximize its mining processes for as long as possible.

“Cryptocurrency malware attacks involve extremely high CPU processing and network bandwidth consumption, which can threaten the stability and availability of the physical processes of a critical infrastructure operator,” explained Yehonatan Kfir, CTO at Radiflow. “While it is known that ransomware attacks have been launched on OT networks, this new case of a cryptocurrency malware attack on an OT network poses new threats as it runs in stealth mode and can remain undetected over time.”

This cryptocurrency malware attack was discovered by Radiflow’s iSID industrial intrusion detection system while monitoring the network of the waste water site of this utility customer. iSID identified and alerted in real-time to several abnormalities, including unexpected HTTP communications and changes to the topology of the customer’s OT network as well as communication attempts with suspicious IP addresses.

“PCs in an OT network run sensitive HMI and SCADA applications that cannot get the latest Windows, antivirus and other important updates and will always be vulnerable to malware attacks,” continued Kfir. “The best way to address this risk is using an intrusion detection system that passively monitors the communication in the OT network and detects anomalies in real-time caused by such malware.”

Radiflow’s research team is continuing to research the events in close cooperation with local regulatory authorities.

“We are very proud to report that our technology has prevented this potentially damaging attack. Given the attractiveness of cryptocurrency mining and its increasing need for processing power, we will not be surprised if we will continue to see such attacks on other OT networks,” added Ilan Barda, CEO of Radiflow. “This case emphasizes the need for a holistic cybersecurity solution for OT networks, including access control, intrusion detection and analytics services with the relevant expertise.”

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