Cyber firms warn ‘Industroyer’ malware could knock out power grids

malware industroyer critical infrastucture 13920697  high voltage post tower sky background
Gyn9037/123RF
The December 2016 power grid hack in Ukraine that plunged part of that nation’s capital, Kiev, into darkness for several hours was an alarming display of the capabilities of skillful hackers determined to bring chaos to communities by knocking out critical infrastructure.

On Monday, two cyber security companies — Slovakia-based anti-virus software outfit Eset, and American firm Dragos that deals with critical-infrastructure security — claimed to have identified the malware that caused the disturbing power outage.

Known by the names Industroyer and Crashoverride, they warned that it could be repurposed with little effort by other groups intent on causing further havoc around the world targeting not only power supply operations, but also water and gas systems, and transportation networks.

Industroyer is believed to be considerably more advanced than the malware used in another attack on Ukraine’s power grid a year earlier, in December 2015.

Eset said it’s been studying the malware for a number of months and recently shared its data with Dragos, leading it to conclude that it’s same as that used in the Ukraine incident in 2016.

Robert Lee of Dragos suggested this week that the Kiev transmission substation targeted in last year’s incident “may have been more of a proof of concept attack than a full demonstration of the capability in Crashoverride,” though at this stage he said he couldn’t be certain.

Either way, Eset senior malware researcher Anton Cherepanov said the Kiev attack “should serve as a wake-up call for all those responsible for the security of critical systems around the world.”

The researcher described Industroyer as particularly concerning because “it’s capable of controlling electricity substation switches and circuit breakers directly. To do so, it uses industrial communication protocols used worldwide in power supply infrastructure, transportation control systems, and other critical infrastructure systems (such as water and gas).”

The work of Eset and Dragos highlights the need for governments around the world to bolster their defenses against highly damaging cyberattacks capable of causing widespread disruption to critical infrastructure. Rather than for monetary gain, such acts of cyberwarfare are often thought to be backed by nation-states as they have the potential to cause chaos within society and reduce a population’s confidence in its own government. It’s not certain who’s behind the Ukraine cyberattacks, though coming during a period of conflict with neighboring Russia has prompted some to suspect it could be the work of hackers based there.

News of the security firms’ discovery led the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to contact all critical infrastructure operators to ensure they are following recommended security procedures, Reuters reported on Monday.

Cherepanov added that hackers “could adapt the malware to any environment, which makes it extremely dangerous.”

Product Review

Origin's Chronos PC is no looker, but it plays games with eye-popping detail

The Chronos is Origin’s smallest PC, but while it occupies less space than most A/V receivers, it delivers the power of a much larger desktop. Its dull exterior design does the system a disservice. Once you turn it on, you won’t be…
Gaming

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now.
Android

Popular Android navigation apps are just Google Maps with ads, researcher says

A malware researcher found that 19 free Android navigation apps on the Google Play Store were nothing more than Google Maps, but with ads. One of the apps asked for a payment to remove the ads, while some of them presented security risks.
Business

Apple banned from distributing some iPhone models in Germany

Apple is following the FTC's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.
Computing

Hackers are scoring with ransomware that attacks its previous victims

Computer viruses are always evolving. In a new one, dubbed "Ryuk," hackers are targeting PCs with ransomware that scours an infected network in order to pinpoint and attack and enterprises with big money.
Computing

Worried about your online privacy? We tested the best VPN services

Browsing the web can be less secure than most users would hope. If that concerns you, a virtual private network — aka a VPN — is a decent solution. Check out a few of the best VPN services on the market.
Computing

How good are you at spotting phishing scams? Take this quiz to find out

Are you able to discern between a legitimate email and one that's a scam designed to phish for your personal information? Google created an online quiz with tips to help you better understand phishing so you don't become a victim.
Gaming

Can't stand keyboard gaming on PC? Here's how to use a PS3 controller instead

Properly connecting a PlayStation 3 Controller to a PC is no easy task, especially when you opt for third-party peripherals. Thankfully, our guide will help you through the process.
Computing

Zipping files on a Chromebook? Follow these four easy steps

Chromebooks support file compression, though they work a little differently than on Windows or Mac. Here's the step-by-step process to zipping files on a Chromebook, and then unzipping them again for extraction.
Computing

Yes, you can use Android apps on your Chromebook. Here's how

You can now get Android apps on your Chromebook! Google has enabled the Google Play Store app support on its Chrome OS and Chromebook hardware, so to get you started, here's our guide on how to get Android apps on a Chromebook.
Computing

Patent application reveals what’s to come after AMD’s Graphics Core Next

A published patent application from AMD has revealed a new type of graphics processor core which could make a big difference to the capabilities of its GPUs if it finds its way into them in the future.
Computing

Microsoft targets Chrome OS with $189 Windows 10 laptops for education

Microsoft announced seven new low-cost Windows 10 laptops, all priced under $300 to take on Chromebooks and iPads in the education market, along with a new Microsoft Allora stylus for students using the Surface Go tablet.
Computing

Lenovo patent hints at a future tablet with a folding screen

Folding devices are a new trend, and according to a recent patent, Lenovo is considering a foldable 2-in-1 with a hinge mechanism that would allow consumers to bend back the screen on the device. 
Computing

Wifi Porter is a high-tech block of wood that lets you share your broadband

Tired of manually connecting your guests to your home Wi-Fi network? The latest invention from the folks at Ten One Design, the WifiPorter, allow individuals to connect to your Wi-Fi with the tap of their phone, or by scanning an available…