Security Experts:

Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?



Thousands of Industrial Firms Targeted in Attacks Leveraging Short-Lived Malware

Thousands of industrial organizations worldwide have been hit in campaigns that leverage short-lived malware to harvest corporate credentials that are then sold by threat actors for a profit, according to Kaspersky.

Thousands of industrial organizations worldwide have been hit in campaigns that leverage short-lived malware to harvest corporate credentials that are then sold by threat actors for a profit, according to Kaspersky.

The Kaspersky unit focusing on industrial control systems (ICS) has conducted an analysis of the malware found in the first half of 2021 on ICS computers worldwide and noticed that roughly 20% of these samples had a lifespan of roughly 25 days — they are then replaced with a new sample.

This is significantly shorter than in typical attacks, particularly since the malware involved was part of widely known commodity families such as AgentTesla, HawkEye, Formbook, Masslogger, Snake Keylogger, Azorult, and Lokibot.

Kaspersky describes the malware used in these campaigns as spyware — the company’s ICS team uses this term for backdoors, trojans and keyloggers.

In addition to their short lifespan, the malware has not been widely distributed in these campaigns — up to 100 devices were infected, including 40-45% ICS-related devices.

It’s worth noting that, based on Kaspersky’s definition, these can include HMIs, SCADA systems, historians, data gateways, engineering workstations, computers used for the administration of industrial networks, and devices used to develop software for industrial systems.

Learn more about ICS threats at SecurityWeek’s ICS Cyber Security Conference

Once inside an organization’s network, the attackers move laterally and compromise the victim’s corporate email service to deliver the malware to other organizations. Kaspersky researchers have identified more than 2,000 corporate email accounts used to send out spear-phishing emails with malicious attachments.

The researchers believe more than 2,000 industrial enterprises have been targeted in these campaigns, which are run independently by “low-skilled individuals and small groups.” These threat actors are financially motivated — they use the stolen data to either directly commit financial crimes or they sell the obtained SMTP, RDP, SSH and VPN credentials on cybercrime marketplaces.

Kaspersky estimates that attackers have obtained access to roughly 7,000 corporate accounts. The credentials stolen in these campaigns have been sold across 25 marketplaces.

“Analysis of those marketplaces showcased high demand for corporate account credentials, especially for Remote Desktop Accounts (RDP),” Kaspersky noted. “Over 46% of all RDP accounts sold in analyzed marketplaces are owned by companies in the US, while the rest originate from Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Almost 4% (almost 2,000 accounts) of all RDP accounts being sold belonged to industrial enterprises.”

Related: ICS Vendors Targeted in Espionage Campaign Focusing on Renewable Energy

Related: Thousands of Industrial Systems Targeted With New ‘PseudoManuscrypt’ Spyware

Related: ‘WildPressure’ Campaign Targets Industrial Sector in Middle East

Related: Cybercriminals Target Industrial Organizations in Information Theft Campaign

Written By

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.

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


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


Zendesk is informing customers about a data breach that started with an SMS phishing campaign targeting the company’s employees.


The release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in late 2022 has demonstrated the potential of AI for both good and bad.


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


As it evolves, web3 will contain and increase all the security issues of web2 – and perhaps add a few more.

Application Security

PayPal is alerting roughly 35,000 individuals that their accounts have been targeted in a credential stuffing campaign.


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


A recently disclosed vBulletin vulnerability, which had a zero-day status for roughly two days last week, was exploited in a hacker attack targeting the...