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Hackers Behind 'Triton' Malware Attack Expand Targets

The threat group responsible for the recently uncovered attack involving a piece of malware known as Triton, Trisis and HatMan is still active, targeting organizations worldwide and safety systems other than Schneider Electric’s Triconex.

The actor, which industrial cybersecurity firm Dragos tracks as Xenotime, is believed to have been around since at least 2014, but its activities were only discovered in 2017 after it targeted a critical infrastructure organization in the Middle East.

The attack that led to the cybersecurity industry uncovering Xenotime was reportedly aimed at an oil and gas plant in Saudi Arabia. It specifically targeted Schneider Electric’s Triconex safety instrumented systems (SIS) through a zero-day vulnerability.Xenotime hackers behind Triton/Trisis attack

The targeted organization launched an investigation and called in FireEye's Mandiant after the SIS caused some industrial systems to unexpectedly shut down. Researchers believe the shutdown was caused by the attackers by accident.

Dragos has also analyzed the initial Triton/Trisis incident and more recent attacks launched by Xenotime. The company says the group has targeted organizations globally, far outside the Middle East.

The security firm has not shared any details on present attacks, but it did note that the hackers are active in multiple facilities, targeting safety controllers other than Triconex.

Some researchers believe Iran is behind the attacks, but Dragos has not shared any information on attribution. The company did point out that it has not found any links between Xenotime and other known groups.

“Dragos assesses with moderate confidence that Xenotime intends to establish required access and capability to cause a potential future disruptive or even destructive event,” the company wrote in a blog post. “Compromising safety systems provides little value outside of disrupting operations. The group created a custom malware framework and tailormade credential gathering tools, but an apparent misconfiguration prevented the attack from executing properly. As Xenotime matures, it is less likely that the group will make this mistake in the future.”

Dragos has been tracking the activities of several threat actors that target industrial control systems (ICS). The company has published brief reports for three of the seven hacker groups it monitors, including the Russia-linked Allanite, which targets electric utilities in the US and UK, and Iran-linked Chrysene, which has attacked ICS networks in the Middle East and the UK.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.