Natural gas plants in U.S. face wave of brute force cyber attacks

Cybercriminals have targeted U.S. energy companies with a wave of brute force cyber attacks, according to the Industrial Control Systems Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT).

A series of attacks were directed against companies operating natural gas compressor stations in the Midwest and Plains states in February and March this year, according to  ICS-CERT’s Monitor report.

“While none of the brute force attempts were successful, these incidents highlight the need for constant vigilance on the part of industry,” ICS-CERT said. “ The ability to detect anomalous network activity and network intrusions early in an incident greatly increases the chance of a successful mitigation and resolution.”

The organization says it has responded to more than 100 incidents targeting the energy sector between October 2012 and May 2013.

“The majority of these incidents involved attacker techniques such as watering hole attacks, SQL injection, and spear-phishing attacks. In all cases, ICS-CERT evaluates the information available to determine if successful compromise has occurred, the depth and breadth of the compromise, and the potential consequences to critical infrastructure networks,” the organization said.

This April, a spear-phishing attack which targeted an American electrical company was documented in ICS-Cert’s Monitor.

A Congressional survey of electrical utilities earlier this year found that companies claimed to face up to 10,000 attacks per month. Out of 53 companies surveyed, more than a dozen described attacks on their systems as “daily” or “constant”. One company complained of being under a “constant state of ‘attack’ from malware and entities seeking to gain access to internal systems.”



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