Close this search box.

Prepare For What’s Coming with the 2023 OT Cybersecurity Year in Review 

Courtesy: Dragos
Courtesy: Dragos

OT cybersecurity insights

  • Dragos’s report introduces new Dragos Threat Groups identified in 2023 and analyzes significant growth in ransomware attacks impacting industrial sectors.
  • There is an increased activity of hacktivists and nation-state adversaries, driven by geopolitical events and the standardization of industrial control systems leading to widespread impacts.
  • There are new regulations and guidelines that have helped strengthen OT cybersecurity defenses.

How well prepared are you to face the OT cybersecurity challenges that lie ahead? The changes in the operational technology (OT) cybersecurity landscape last year were a narrative filled with twists and turns. The Dragos 2023 OT Cybersecurity Year in Review turns this narrative into lessons and strategies, guiding you to a more secure industrial future – it is our roadmap to understanding and navigating these challenges in 2024.

What You Can Expect in the 2023 Year in Review

Here is a snapshot of what we’ll cover in Dragos’s 2023 OT Cybersecurity Year in Review:

  • We introduce new Dragos Threat Groups identified in 2023 and other observed adversary activity in the past year.

  • We summarize and drill down into the significant growth in ransomware attacks impacting industrial sectors.

  • We cover increased activity by hacktivists and nation-state adversaries driven by geopolitical events in the past year.

  • We discuss how the standardization of industrial control systems (ICS) environments are leading to impacts on multiple organizations and industries with single portable exploits.

  • We feature the regulations and guidelines that helped focus and strengthen OT cybersecurity defenses.

A Recap From Last Year’s Report

In case you missed it, here’s a recap of the crucial OT cybersecurity insights covered in last year’s report.

State-Sponsored ICS-Specific Malware Impacts Hundreds of Suppliers

Discovered in early 2022, PIPEDREAM is the seventh known ICS-specific malware. It follows STUXNET, HAVEX, BLACKENERGY2, CRASHOVERRIDE, TRISIS, and Industroyer2. The development of this malware demonstrates the risks of increasingly homogenous operational technology systems and modern component-based software.

  • PIPEDREAM is the first scalable, cross-industry ICS attack framework; it targets five ubiquitous software components and protocols. Hundreds of suppliers and thousands of devices that use the software and protocols in question are potentially impacted.

  • This malware has the potential for disruptive and destructive cyber attacks in OT networks and ICS environments. It is capable of end-to-end cyber attacks; it can be used in Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the ICS Cyber Kill Chain.

2 New Threat Groups Discovered Targeting OT Companies

Dragos began tracking two new threat groups in 2022, bringing the total of OT targeting Dragos-tracked threat groups up to 20. This represents a 300% increase in the number of observable OT threat groups active at one time since 2017.

Courtesy: Dragos
Courtesy: Dragos

Dragos Threat Intelligence also observed activity by these Threat Groups: KOSTOVITE, KAMACITE, XENOTIME, ELECTRUM, ERYTHRITE, and WASSONITE .

Ransomware Attacks Impacting Industrial Sectors Increased by 87%

Ransomware groups, while not targeting OT environments explicitly, have had a significant impact on OT networks, whether through the integration of operational technology (OT) kill processes into ransomware strains, flattened networks allowing ransomware to spread into OT environments, or precautionary shutdowns that prevent ransomware from spreading to industrial control systems.

Courtesy: Dragos
Courtesy: Dragos
  • Dragos tracked 605 ransomware attacks against industrial organizations in 2022, an increase of 87% over last year. Political tensions, the introduction of Lockbit Builder, and the continued growth of ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) all contributed to the increase.

  • Dragos assessed that manufacturing accounted for 72% of the 2022 ransomware attacks against industrial organizations – nearly twice as much as the other industrial sectors combined. Ransomware groups targeted 437 manufacturing entities in 104 unique manufacturing subsectors.

  • Lockbit 2.0 and Lockbit 3.0 conducted 28% of the total ransomware attacks in 2022. The Conti ransomware group was associated with 10% of attacks, and Black Basta was responsible for 9% of attacks.

Many ICS Advisories Contain Errors and Lack Actionable Guidance

For each CVE, Dragos Threat Intelligence independently assesses, confirms, and often revises Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) scores to enable more effective prioritization, in addition to providing alternative mitigations to patching tailored to OT environments.

  • In 2022, Dragos threat intelligence researchers analyzed 2,170 ICS/OT common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) across 461 public advisories.

Industrial Organizations Are Still Struggling with the Basics

The ICS incident responders and OT defenders from the Dragos Professional Services team have consulted on numerous cases where significant time and resources could have been saved with preparation. In 2022, Dragos shared these insights to help OT asset owners avoid issues that increase the time, personnel, downtime, and expense of managing a cybersecurity incident. Key findings we reported to were:

  • 80% of service engagements had a lack of visibility across OT networks—making detections, triage, and response incredibly difficult at scale.

  • 50% of service engagements included a finding about improper network segmentation.

  • 53% of service engagements included a finding of external connections from OEMs, IT networks, or the internet to the OT network.

  • 54% of service engagements included a finding of shared credentials in OT systems, the most common method of lateral movement and privilege escalation.

Original content can be found at Dragos.




Keep your finger on the pulse of top industry news