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MITRE Releases ATT&CK Knowledge Base for Industrial Control Systems

MITRE on Tuesday announced the initial release of a version of its ATT&CK knowledge base that covers the tactics and techniques used by malicious actors when targeting industrial control systems (ICS).

MITRE’s ATT&CK framework has been widely used by cybersecurity professionals to describe and classify attacker behavior and assess an organization’s risks. The new ATT&CK for ICS knowledge base builds upon it in an effort to help critical infrastructure and other organizations whose environments house ICS.MITRE releases ICS version of ATT&CK

In addition to a matrix that provides an overview of the tactics and techniques used by adversaries, ATT&CK for ICS covers attack techniques in more detail, the malware used by threat actors, and the threat groups known to have launched ICS-related attacks. It also includes an Assets category in order to help organizations understand which techniques can be applied to their environment.

The knowledge base currently describes 81 attack techniques, 17 pieces of malware, 10 threat groups, and 7 types of assets.

According to MITRE, the framework shows which of the ICS-specific applications and protocols — typically used by operators to interact with physical equipment — can be abused by adversaries.

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“The knowledge base can play several key roles for defenders, including helping establish a standard language for security practitioners to use as they report incidents,” MITRE said. “With expertise in this domain in short supply, it can also help with the development of incident response playbooks, prioritizing defenses as well as finding gaps, reporting threat intelligence, analyst training and development, and emulating adversaries during exercises.”

ATT&CK for ICS was developed with help from over 100 individuals representing 39 organizations, including security and threat intelligence companies focusing on ICS, national labs, industrial product manufacturers, universities, research institutes, government agencies, and Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs).

“Asset owners and defenders want deep knowledge of the tradecraft and technology that adversaries use in affecting industrial control systems to help inform their defenses,” said Otis Alexander, a lead cybersecurity engineer focusing on ICS security at MITRE. “Adversaries may try to interrupt critical service delivery by disrupting industrial processes. They may also try to cause physical damage to equipment. With MITRE ATT&CK for ICS, we can help mitigate the catastrophic failures that affect property or human life.”

Austin Scott, principal ICS security analyst at Dragos, commented, “[ATT&CK for ICS] is a huge win for the front-line ICS network defenders who now have a common lexicon for categorizing ICS specific techniques to support reporting and further analysis.”

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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.