Attacks using ransomware have increased in frequency in recent years. Any system that is directly or indirectly connected to the Internet is potentially susceptible to attacks. This article describes the danger of ransomware attacks on systems used for operations technology (OT). It also discusses how to protect operational technology (OT) assets from ransomware.
What Is Ransomware?
Malicious software called ransomware was used to encrypt user files and prevent access to them without a key. A user must pay a ransom to the hackers withholding the data in exchange for that key.
Computer and network system compromises have existed for a while. Although there are many other types of these attacks, ransomware is one of the most common. A malicious software program known as ransomware restricts access to a computer system until a ransom is paid. The objective of such attacks, which are effectively extortion, is to extort money from the target system’s owners.
Why OT Systems Make a Tempting Ransomware Target
Ransomware can compromise machinery that ensures the smooth operation of facilities. These facilities include oil refineries or water treatment plants. Cybercriminals can halt business operations by targeting unprotected OT systems with ransomware.
Why, then, are OT systems more susceptible to intrusion than their IT counterparts? Patching and updating are far more difficult (if not impossible) in the OT domain, which is one important factor.
- Time and Money Required to Update Legacy OT Systems.
Many firms choose not to update their Legacy OT systems due to the cost and time it takes to do so. It might not be financially feasible to shut down a factory for a day or even just a few hours to apply updates or patches. Regrettably, OT systems may become vulnerable to malicious actors due to this lack of regular updates.
- Ease of Compromise
Cybercriminals know that OT systems are relatively simple to compromise. Many firms are either ignorant of the risk or aren’t paying enough attention to the security of these systems. This is because assaults on OT systems are still relatively new phenomena,
- OT Firms are Lucrative
With OT systems, more than just monetary losses are at risk. Compromised organizations may be more willing to pay a huge ransom to avoid major interruptions to their operations. This is because the physical cost of shutting down a water treatment plant or stopping oil production is high.
OT Ransomware Attacks: Why Are They Increasing in 2024?
In recent years, there have been more incidents of ransomware attacks. It is plausible to believe that the real number of such attacks has increased as well. Even though this may be partly attributable to increasing knowledge of this kind of attack, it is hardly shocking considering that using malicious software to commit such assaults is a common way to make money.
Furthermore, it is simple to find and download ransomware kits from the Internet, so advanced knowledge and skill are not needed. OT security vendors provide security solutions that help firms monitor their assets. There are also some best ways to prepare for a ransomware attack. Some ways in which you can be prepared for a ransomware attack are discussed below.
How to Prepare for a Ransomware Attack
These are a few strategies that might help businesses remain operational in the event of a security breach and become more resistant to OT attacks.
- Educate Your Staff
In addition to educating staff about phishing and social engineering attacks. Organizations should also consider making some technological and infrastructure modifications, according to experts.
Security awareness training is crucial to preventing ransomware in its tracks. When people are aware, they may all contribute to the security of the organization. Security awareness training can teach team members what to check for in an email before they click a link or download an attachment.
- Backups are Necessary
Additionally, businesses must keep air-gapped backups of their information. This is regularly updated copies that are not linked to the network and are therefore safe from ransomware encryption.
- Recognize the Data you Risk Losing
Knowing what information is in danger for your business, where it is all kept will help you decide how important it is to schedule backups and spend money on offsite storage.
- Examine and Validate Your Incident Response Strategy.
Determine who you will contact in the event of a ransomware assault to get your machines back online. What price are you prepared to accept in exchange for your data? Also, know how long a security event can keep your firm offline. To prevent being at the mercy of a ransomware organization, it’s crucial to design and frequently review an incident response plan.
- Use a Zero-Trust Approach.
Take away implicit trust. This means that before a user may access the network again, every authorization request and every session must be verified. It is more difficult for attackers to enter and cause havoc when validation is performed at every stage of the digital contact.
Organizations should segment their networks to ensure that employees may only access the areas they require for their employment. Not everyone needs administrator access to their PC.
Using a zero-trust security strategy will make sure that only authorized people may access crucial OT apps. CISOs may ensure governance and feel more secure with technologically sophisticated cybersecurity solutions. It is by managing and monitoring users using MFA, inverse channels, auditing, and other features.
- List the Assets That Are at Risk
Any information you make available to the public about yourself or your company increases your risk of being compromised in a data breach. It can also be utilized as a part of a ransomware attack.
List out the attack surfaces for your computer network and machinery. Avoid being caught off guard. Secure your logins by using complicated, challenging passwords that you save in the protected vault of a password manager.
- Have a Backup
Another recommendation is to create backup procedures and regularly test them. In the event of an assault, Plan B should be prepared to go so that operations don’t stop. Manual controls should be available for organizations so that ICS networks can be separated as necessary.
- Penetration Testing
Third, businesses must evaluate the security of their IoT devices before putting them into use. To lessen the threat, management should mandate that all built-in security mechanisms be enabled and shared across various networks. To evaluate whether OT systems are secure, periodic third-party penetration testing is required.
- Implement an IDS
By comparing network traffic logs to signatures that identify known malicious activity, an intrusion detection system (IDS). A powerful IDS will frequently update signatures and promptly notify your company if it discovers dangerous activity. An IDS can help detect a ransomware attack.
- Protect Your Presence in the Cloud and Use MFA
Criminals will likely employ strategies we haven’t seen in the future to launch ransomware assaults in cloud environments. Utilize identity and access management software to secure cloud APIs and get your company ready. Also, employing multifactor authentication and making sure that they apply software updates as soon as they are made available ensures that you are well prepared to defend your business from attacks.
OT security has turned into a top priority for everyone. Businesses must immediately safeguard their OT systems to guard against ransomware and other potentially disastrous cyberattacks. The innovative and secure method to do this is by enrolling the help of OT security vendors who partner with you to fight OT cyber risk, prepare you to brace for changes, and effectively guide you on how you can defend your business from cyber attacks.