Russia attacks Kyiv power grid with Industroyer2; new malware targets ICS networks  

About the Threats

A Russian-backed APT group used an updated version of Industroyer, dubbed Industroyer2, to penetrate a Ukrainian energy company in a failed effort to knock the Kyiv electric grid offline. The cyberattack, executed on April 8, 2022, was detected and stopped. 

The following week, on April 13, 2022, The Department of Energy (DOE), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a joint Cybersecurity Advisory (CSA) to warn that Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) actors have exhibited the capability to gain full system access to multiple Industrial Control System (ICS) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) devices, using a new malware toolkit, Pipedream. The malware toolkit has not yet been used to disrupt or damage any networks or devices. 

Difenda cybersecurity experts are actively monitoring these developments, 24×7×365, to ensure that Difenda Shield users are protected against any cyberthreats that may spill over from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

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Technical threat overview: Industroyer2 

  • According to ESET, which collaborated with CERT-UA to analyze the attack, the state-sponsored Russian APT group Sandworm attempted to damage the Kyiv electric grid on April 8th, 2022, through an unnamed energy company. ESET states that they have high confidence that Sandworm launched the attack. 
  • Sandworm deployed Industroyer2, an updated version of the ICS malware that Sandworm previously used to successfully attack Ukraine in 2016. The first attack shut down power to roughly 20 percent of Kyiv for over an hour. 
  • Based on PE timestamps, Sandworm had been planning the Industroyer2 attack for at least two weeks prior to launching it.
  • Sandworm successfully breached the energy company, and the attack targeted high-voltage electrical substations. However, the attack was detected and stopped before it damaged any equipment or disrupted operations.
  • Sandworm also used several other malware families in addition to Industroyer2 in the recent attack. Those include, ORCSHRED, SOLOSHRED, AWFULSHRED, and a variant of CaddyWiper. CaddyWiper was previously used in March 2022 against a Ukrainian bank.
  • The attack also included regular disk wipers for Windows, Linux, and Solaris operating systems.
  • At this time, it is not known how attackers compromised the initial victim. It is also not known how the malware spread from the IT network to the ICS network.

Technical threat overview: Pipedream 

  • The DOE, CISA, NSA, and the FBI released a joint CSA on April 13, 2022 to warn that APT actors have developed custom-made tools for targeting ICS/SCADA devices. The tools enable them to scan for, compromise, and control affected devices once they have established initial access to the Operational Technology (OT) network.
  • The custom malware toolkit, which is being referred to by some researchers as “Pipedream,” has been called a “Swiss Army knife” of ICS/SCADA malware due to the large number of features in the malware package and its ability to target many different types of networks.
  •  While APT actors are nearly always state-sponsored cut-outs, the CSA did not specify which group nor which country developed the malware. However, the CSA follows other warnings from the Biden Administration about Russia’s intention to launch more cyberattacks against Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.
  • Security researchers at Dragos believe that an APT group called Chernovite is responsible for developing Pipedream. At this time, we cannot confirm this, and Dragos does not claim to have high confidence in this attribution. 
  • The systems and devices these APT actors have shown the ability to compromise include Schneider Electric programmable logic controllers (PLCs), OMRON Sysmac NEX PLCs, and Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture (OPC UA) servers, among others. 
  • Pipedream has a modular architecture, and it scans for, compromises, and then takes control of compromised devices once the devices have established initial access to the OT network.
  • Additionally, Pipedream gives APT actors the ability to compromise Windows-based engineering workstations, which may be present in both IT and OT environments. This capability relies on an exploit that compromises an ASRock motherboard driver with known vulnerabilities. By compromising and maintaining full system access to ICS/SCADA devices, APT actors could elevate privileges, move laterally within an OT environment, and disrupt critical devices or functions.
  • Pipedream gives hackers to ability to conduct highly automated exploits against targeted devices. The tools have a virtual console with a command interface that mirrors the interface of the targeted ICS/SCADA device. Modules interact with targeted devices, enabling operations by lower-skilled cyber actors to emulate higher-skilled actor capabilities. 
  •  The APT actors can leverage the modules to scan for targeted devices, conduct reconnaissance on device details, upload malicious configuration/code to the targeted device, back up or restore device contents, and modify device parameters.

What we are seeing:

As of today, we have not observed Industroyer2 used in attacks beyond the targeted one against Kyiv’s electric grid discussed above. Furthermore, Pipedream does not appear to have been used for destructive or disruptive purposes yet, and the agencies that detected it have not revealed how they did so or where they found the malware toolkit. 

Difenda security experts continue to monitor a number of state-sponsored APT groups, and our team continues to actively hunt for new malware variations created by these threat actors. Refer to our recent threat advisory about Russian cyberwarfare operations against Ukraine for a partial list of APT groups we are continuously monitoring.

What we Recommend:

CISA recommends and Difenda experts strongly agree that organizations with ICS/SCADA devices and OT networks should implement a number of proactive mitigations and adopt certain security best practices in order to protect against current and future attacks against critical infrastructure. These and other mitigations and best practices we recommend include:  

  • Air gap ICS/SCADA systems and networks from corporate and internet networks or isolate them using strong perimeter controls.
  • Limit any communications entering or leaving ICS/SCADA perimeters.
  • Enforce multi-factor authentication for all remote access to ICS networks and devices whenever possible.
  • Set up network segmentation in your firewalls to separate sensitive applications from other parts of the network.
  • Develop a cyber incident response plan, and exercise it regularly with stakeholders in IT, cybersecurity, and operations.
  • Change all passwords to ICS/SCADA devices and systems on a consistent schedule, especially all default passwords, to device-unique strong passwords to mitigate password brute force attacks and to give defender monitoring systems opportunities to detect common attacks. 
  • Maintain known-good offline backups for faster recovery upon a disruptive attack, and be sure to conduct hashing and integrity checks on firmware and controller configuration files to ensure validity of those backups. 
  • Limit ICS/SCADA systems’ network connections to only specifically allowed management and engineering workstations.
  • Protect management systems by configuring Device Guard, Credential Guard, and Hypervisor Code Integrity (HVCI). Install Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solutions on these subnets and ensure strong anti-virus file reputation settings are configured.
  • Implement robust log collection and retention from ICS/SCADA systems and management subnets.
  • Leverage a continuous OT monitoring solution to alert on malicious indicators and behaviors, watching internal systems and communications for known hostile actions and lateral movement. For enhanced network visibility to potentially identify abnormal traffic, CISA provides open-source Industrial Control Systems Network Protocol Parsers (ICSNPP)
  •  Ensure all applications are only installed when necessary for operations and delete applications that your organization no longer uses.
  • Enforce the principle of least privilege. Only use admin accounts when required for specific tasks, such as installing software updates.
  • Investigate symptoms of a denial of service or connection severing, which exhibit as delays in communications processing, loss of function requiring a reboot, and delayed actions to operator comments as signs of potential malicious activity.
  • Monitor systems for loading of unusual drivers, especially for ASRock driver if no ASRock driver is normally used on the system.  

Threat actor hunting: from IT to OT and back:

On Tuesday, May 3, 2022, you have a chance to ask two security experts about other actions your organization should take to protect against these threats. Difenda is hosting a webinar with Richard Diver, Microsoft’s Sr. Technical Business Development Manager. Diver and Difenda’s Director of Research and Response, Sheldon Shaw, will discuss lab research and outline an attack-driven approach to identify threat hunt criteria from IT to OT and beyond.

Plus, they will demonstrate a real-time simulated attack with OT malware. Register today for your spot

What Difenda is doing:

Difenda continues to maintain a presence on the Dark Web to monitor for new and emergent threats and will provide updates through the Technical Account Managers that are assigned to clients.

About Difenda

Difenda is a privately held SecOps-as-a-Service company founded in 2008. It delivers 24/7/365 security operations backed by modernized PCI, SOC 2 Type II, and ISO 27001 certified Cyber Command Centers (C3). Difenda’s managed practice is powered solely on the Microsoft Security product platform, and it holds the Gold Security Service Provider certification and an Advanced Specialization in Threat Protection with Microsoft. Alongside a fully integrated, modular platform, it provides a range of advisory and offensive security services to complement customer driven outcomes.


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Megan Miller

Megan Miller’s energy and passion for learning flow into all aspects of her work. As the Growth Manager, North America, she brings a background in sciences which she has transitioned to the tech sector in her role at Difenda.

With a Bachelors of Science in Geology, Megan is a lifelong learner who is voracious about learning anything she can get her hands on about cybersecurity. Her positive energy has built a sales strategy with a focus on expanding in the United States while nurturing the Canadian presence. She is responsible for recruiting and training the sales team. Together with the company’s leadership, she creates the sales process and the company’s product strategy in order to better serve the customer base. This ensures that our customers have a highly trained and highly motivated team to help them every step of the way, Megan has completed Microsoft SC-900 training and working towards mastering Microsoft.

Whether at work or play, Megan is fully committed. She took her love of hockey all the way to the semi-professional level as a competitive hockey player. Megan loves all things sports including water skiing, scuba diving, cycling, and snowboarding. She also enjoys time with family and reading about alternative energy, innovation, and cybersecurity.

Natasha Phanor

As the Customer Success Manager at Difenda, Natasha Phanor is the voice of the customer, responsible for driving satisfaction, retention, and growth among our valued clients. With six years in the industry, she offers a fresh, energetic approach, and the ability to focus on a customer’s needs throughout the entire process. Natasha has the innate ability to foresee customer needs and solve problems before they arise, which creates a smooth road for each customer she encounters.

As the recipient of the Outstanding Services Partner of the Year Award in 2018, it is clear that Natasha responds quickly to customer needs, creates a platform for understanding a customer’s business requirements, and walks them through the process to ensure their complete satisfaction.

In her spare time, Natasha is as energetic and passionate as she is on the job. A self-proclaimed foodie-extraordinaire, she enjoys dinner parties, traveling, downhill skiing, hiking, biking, and reading. Natasha has a Bachelor of Fine Arts, specializing in Dance, from Ryerson University.

Ian Miersch

Ian Miersch has energy to spare, and uses his eclectic background to make a positive mark on the cybersecurity industry. As Vice President of Finance & Human Resources, Ian Miersch is responsible for overseeing scalable business growth as Difenda expands throughout North America. But it is the way he does it that sets him apart. By leveraging his engineering background and critical thinking skills, he has been able to develop unique strategies that balance the company’s current business needs with its long-term growth plans. And the results of his unique background and drive mean that the company is growing in a fiscally responsible manner, all with the customer’s needs at the forefront.

With a Bachelor’s of Mechanical Engineering, coupled with an MBA in Finance, both from McMaster University, Ian’s ability to analyze data and make informed decisions is augmented by his ability to understand all facets of the business. He has a holistic understanding of the craft, from operations to project delivery and management, to his niche in financial planning. Ian’s ten years of experience in the industry mean that he has seen it all, and knows how to create a dynamic team and manage the resources needed for success.

Outside of work, he uses his energy to help others through the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program, earning the Group Recreation Volunteer of the Year Status.

Ian also enjoys exploring and hiking with his three young children, exercising (so he can keep up with them), and reading professional development books. He is an avid but generally heartbroken fan of the Toronto sports teams, including the Blue Jays, Maple Leafs, and Raptors.

Derek Nugent

Derek Nugent, vice-president of sales and marketing, lives by the motto “Be early, be better.” Derek leads our Sales and Marketing team and is responsible for customer success, as well as pre-sales and sales enablement. His high energy level and creativity have built high performing teams, whether at the Herjavec Group, CDW, or in his current leadership role at Difenda.

After earning a Bachelor Administration and Management degree from the Academy of Learning, Derek started in the information technology industry in 2004 and transitioned to the cybersecurity industry in 2014. With so much experience in a wide-variety of roles, he is poised to take the team at Difenda to the next level.

He excels at leading revenue strategies, new market entry, partnership engagement, and customer acquisition and retention. His work ethic and interest in rising to the top motivate his sales teams, who respond well to his passion and zeal. Under his tutelage, they are able to achieve attractive lead generation, YOY growth, and sizable deals. Derek works tirelessly to build a better team, and his constituents follow his road to success, which ultimately leads to a rewarding experience for the customer.

Even when volunteering, Derek is all in. He was a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters from 2005-2015, earning Group Recreation Volunteer of the Year Status.

And when he isn’t busy leading the team to the acme of sales, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two kids, running, working out, watching thrillers, action and dramatic television shows

Manoj Arora

Manoj Arora, Difenda’s Founder and CEO has always been ahead of the curve in Technology and Cyber Security. After securing his engineering degree in Computer Science, he wrote his first mobile banking application when he was just 23 years old. This accomplishment certainly set him apart from the crowd and prepared him for a lifetime of innovation and success in his field. At just 25 years old, he was selected as the youngest Cyber Security Officer for one of the largest banks in Asia.

As a globetrotting young cyber security professional, Manoj was instrumental in designing cyber security infrastructure and controls for some of the largest institutions around the world. Depth of his expertise and passion to serve customers at the highest level of competence and integrity lead to Difenda. Founded in 2008, Difenda is a rapidly growing cybersecurity firm operating in North America and Asia.

As the CEO at Difenda, Manoj drives the strategic vision to protect our customers and enable our team members to deliver our services in line with core values- competence, integrity, and innovation. Currently one of Microsoft’s leading North American partners, Difenda reflects Manoj’ single-minded focus on our customers. Difenda is fully vested in success of its customers and takes pride in considering our success as a byproduct of our customers. Manoj has always been committed to building a great team and forging strong partnerships to serve our customers with standards that top our industry.

When he is not busy bringing cybersecurity to the world, Manoj enjoys playing golf and squash, and continues to travel the world.

Lisa Templeton

Lisa Templeton is the perfect combination of human empathy and technological prowess. In her role as People Services Manager, she takes care of our team members to support them in their daily work, as well as on their personal life paths. Happy employees make for happy customers, and Lisa excels in giving our employees the tools they need for success in order to become the best possible versions of themselves. Along with employee formation, she shines in the service delivery support domain to continuously improve the process. Her 24 years of experience in IT Operations and Service Management help her create quality and efficiency at Difenda.

Having attended the Information Systems Management certificate program at Ryerson University, and with various other certifications to her credit, Lisa is perceptive and innovative when it comes to information technology, but also sensitive to the needs of her human constituents. Responsible for achieving the first privately owned company HDI Support Center certification in Canada, she has also designed and implemented Service Management excellence programs and 24×7 IT Operations departments for multiple IT organizations, and has created corporate rewards and recognition programs to keep her employees engaged and motivated.

On the personal side, Lisa passionately supports the cause of breast cancer research, having lost her mother to the disease. She reads voraciously in her spare time, and enjoys the art of home renovation. The summer months also bring time on her boat and exploring new hiking trails.

Miranda McCurdy

Miranda McCurdy uses her myriad super powers in all aspects of her job and personal life. As the Marketing Director at Difenda, Miranda McCurdy brings over a decade of experience to the table, which includes expertise in all facets of operations, brand management, and content marketing, as well as a multitude of successful strategies for the ever-expanding digital world. She is an expert at simplifying the message the company is trying to send, filling in gaps in the information, and strengthening the content in order to create compelling narratives that strengthen the brand and developing programs that bring teams together.

With several Addy Awards issued by the American Advertising Federation Cleveland to her credit, and her never say die attitude, Miranda understands both the broader picture and the minute details that are needed to successfully market a product. With her abilities to harness both the talent needed to spread the message, as well as to create the message itself, she is an integral cog in the company’s ability to communicate with customers and other stakeholders.

When she is not building a brand, she shares her ability to fill the gaps in her community by volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, the Special Olympics, and the Charleston Food Bank. In her spare time, Miranda spends time with her family, enjoys fitness and health, paddle boarding, reading, and arts and crafts.

Juliana Zaremba

Connections are the name of the game for Juliana Zaremba. As Strategic Partnerships Director, she is responsible for Difenda’s channel partnerships and the development and ownership of the channel partner program. She is also responsible for the global Microsoft Partnership, including the creation of strategic plans with MSFT contacts that will facilitate the continued growth of the business and establish certification and training protocols in all security technologies. Her role is multifaceted, as she acquires partners, manages relationships with them, and develops strategies that will provide cutting edge security solutions to our customer base. Another integral aspect of her job is to facilitate growth.

With a Bachelor’s in Math from the University of Waterloo and 14 years of experience from her previous roles at Herjavec Group and CDW, her cutting edge focus and ability to develop long-lasting relationships and strategies provides world class security solutions to our customer base.

Juliana thrives on connections outside of work as well. She is a philanthropist and contributor with Women4Change based in Hamilton. This group of local women is passionate about supporting local causes, and she focuses her efforts around Women in STEM. She is also a member of Club Italia in Niagara Falls and supports their youth events throughout the year.

When not managing the Microsoft Global partnership, Juliana enjoys reading, often reading several books at once. Juliana enjoys exploring the Niagara Escarpment with her family, as well as sharing meals and experiences with her extended family. Juliana’s competitive nature has her always trying new things, like Whoop band challenges and Peloton.

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