Security Experts:

Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Data Protection

Industrial Control Systems Ripe Targets for Ransomware

Security researchers at IBM Corp. and Dragos Inc. are warning that the industrial control systems that power manufacturing plants and utilities are prime targets for ransomware attackers.

Security researchers at IBM Corp. and Dragos Inc. are warning that the industrial control systems that power manufacturing plants and utilities are prime targets for ransomware attackers.

In a report issued this week, the researchers noted that ransomware attacks against industrial entities jumped more than 500 percent over the last two years.

Interestingly, the increase in the ransomware incidents appears to coincide with the global COVID-19 pandemic. “Ransomware adversaries leveraged Coronavirus-themed phishing lures for initial access operations, preying on users’ concern for health and safety,” the researchers noted.

In some cases, the IBM and Dragos report said adversaries are targeting cold storage facilities and biomedical, and pharmaceutical manufacturers researching and developing virus vaccines and distribution methods, which could disrupt the development and distribution of the vital drugs.”

The analysis also found that ransomware operators are increasingly incorporating data theft and extortion operations into their attack techniques, potentially posing even greater impact from ransomware than disrupted operations through leaked intellectual property and other critical data.

According to the report (PDF), data stolen and leaked on publicly available websites could provide ICS targeting attackers with victim data that could inform or guide future ICS disruptive attacks.

To combat ransomware in ICS environments, the researchers suggest that asset owners and operators engage in effective defense-in-depth security strategies. 

“Ensure an understanding of network interdependencies and conduct crown jewel analysis to identify potential weaknesses that could disrupt business continuity and production. 

Over the summer, FireEye reported that a total of seven ransomware families have been found to target processes associated with operational technology (OT) software.

Learn more about threats to industrial systems at SecurityWeek’s 2020 ICS Cyber Security Conference and SecurityWeek’s Security Summits virtual event series

RelatedSeven Ransomware Families Target Industrial Software

Related: ICS-Targeting Snake Ransomware Isolates Infected Systems Before Encryption

Related: Honda Ransomware Confirms Findings of Industrial Honeypot Research

Written By

Click to comment

Daily Briefing Newsletter

Subscribe to the SecurityWeek Email Briefing to stay informed on the latest threats, trends, and technology, along with insightful columns from industry experts.

Join this webinar to learn best practices that organizations can use to improve both their resilience to new threats and their response times to incidents.


Join this live webinar as we explore the potential security threats that can arise when third parties are granted access to a sensitive data or systems.


Expert Insights

Related Content

Application Security

Cycode, a startup that provides solutions for protecting software source code, emerged from stealth mode on Tuesday with $4.6 million in seed funding.


Satellite TV giant Dish Network confirmed that a recent outage was the result of a cyberattack and admitted that data was stolen.


Less than a week after announcing that it would suspended service indefinitely due to a conflict with an (at the time) unnamed security researcher...

Data Protection

The CRYSTALS-Kyber public-key encryption and key encapsulation mechanism recommended by NIST for post-quantum cryptography has been broken using AI combined with side channel attacks.

Data Protection

The cryptopocalypse is the point at which quantum computing becomes powerful enough to use Shor’s algorithm to crack PKI encryption.


The changing nature of what we still generally call ransomware will continue through 2023, driven by three primary conditions.

Data Breaches

LastPass DevOp engineer's home computer hacked and implanted with keylogging malware as part of a sustained cyberattack that exfiltrated corporate data from the cloud...


No one combatting cybercrime knows everything, but everyone in the battle has some intelligence to contribute to the larger knowledge base.