recommended reading

DHS Raises Alarms over Malware Targeting Power Operations

FreeBirdPhotos/Shutterstock.com

The Department of Homeland Security is emphasizing the threat of a hacker operation that already has attacked U.S. and European energy companies and can disrupt power. The group behind the campaign is affiliated with Russia, according to security researchers. 

On Tuesday, DHS reposted and updated for the third time since Wednesday an alert to companies that operate "industrial control systems” -- machines that run critical commercial services. 

Homeland Security "is analyzing malware and artifacts associated with an industrial control system (ICS) focused malware campaign,” DHS officials stated.

The so-called Havex "payload" seems to target machines running outdated versions of a widely used specification for connectivity called Open Platform Communications technology.

"Testing has determined that the Havex payload has caused multiple common OPC platforms to intermittently crash," DHS stated. "This could cause a denial-of-service effect," or outage, of "applications reliant on OPC communications."

Citing research from security companies Symantec and F-Secure, DHS said the Havex malicious software "could have allowed attackers to access the networks of systems that have installed" the malware. 

The hacker group is alternatively dubbed Energetic Bear and Dragonfly. It has broken into the websites of three control system vendors and dropped the malware into legitimate software updates that its energy customers download. DHS has identified the three vendors on a secure website restricted to companies in key U.S. industries, officials said. 

Security startup CrowdStrike first reported the emergence of Energetic Bear in January, describing the group as "an adversary with a nexus to the Russian Federation," that was going after "government and research targets, as well as a large number of energy sector targets."

Symantec, in a paper released Monday, said the prey include companies that operate power grids, electricity generation, and petroleum pipelines, as well as industrial equipment providers.

"Symantec describes the victims as Spain, U.S., France, Italy and Germany, in that order," the DHS alert states.

DHS officials have examined one malware sample that records sensitive operational data, including the kinds of computers and devices connected to a company's network. The spyware gathers information including server name, program IDs, vendor information, running state and server bandwidth, officials said. The malware does not appear to affect devices using newer versions of Open Platform Communications. 

(Image via FreeBirdPhotos/Shutterstock.com)

Threatwatch Alert

Accidentally leaked credentials / Software vulnerability

Cloudflare Bug Leaked Passwords, Dating Chats and Other Sensitive Info for Months

See threatwatch report

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.