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Dangerous Malware Discovered that Can Take Down Electric Power Grids

Last December, a cyber attack on Ukrainian Electric power grid caused the power outage in the northern part of Kiev — the country’s capital — and surrounding areas, causing a blackout for tens of thousands of citizens for an hour and fifteen minutes around midnightNow, security researchers have discovered the culprit behind those cyber attacks on the Ukrainian industrial control systems..Slovakia-based security software maker ESET and US critical infrastructure security firm Dragos Inc. say they have discovered a new dangerous piece of malware in the wild that targets critical industrial control systems and is capable of causing blackouts.Dubbed “Industroyer” or “CrashOverRide,” the grid-sabotaging malware was likely to be used in the December 2016 cyber attack against Ukrainian electric utility Ukrenergo, which the security firms say represents a dangerous advancement in critical infrastructure hacking.According to the researchers, CrashOverRide is the biggest threat designed to disrupt industrial control systems, after Stuxnet — the first malware allegedly developed by the US and Israel to sabotage the Iranian nuclear facilities in 2009.

This Malware Does Not Exploit Any Software Flaw


Unlike Stuxnet worm, the CrashOverRide malware does not exploit any “zero-day” software vulnerabilities to do its malicious activities; instead, it relies on four industrial communication protocols used worldwide in power supply infrastructure, transportation control systems, and other critical infrastructure systems.The CrashOverRide malware can control electricity substation’ switches and circuit breakers, designed decades ago, allowing an attacker to simply turning off power distribution, cascading failures and causing more severe damage to equipment.Industroyer malware is a backdoor that first installs four payload components to take control of switches and circuit breakers; and then connects to a remote command-and-control server to receive commands from the attackers.”Industroyer payloads show the authors’ in-depth knowledge and understanding of industrial control systems.” ESET researchers explain.”The malware contains a few more features that are designed to enable it to remain under the radar, to ensure the malware’s persistence, and to wipe all traces of itself after it has done its job.”Since there have been four malware discovered in the wild to date that target industrial control systems, including Stuxnet, Havex, BlackEnergy, and CrashOverRide; Stuxnet and CrashOverRide were designed only for sabotage, while BlackEnergy and Havex were meant for conducting espionage.”The functionality in the CRASHOVERRIDE framework serves no espionage purpose and the only real feature of the malware is for attacks which would lead to electric outages,” reads Dragos analysis [PDF] of the malware.