Europe and North America Energy Sector Targeted by Sophisticated Cyberattack Group

Europe and North America Energy Sector Targeted by Sophisticated Cyberattack Group”

As part of the group's Dragonfly 2.0 cyber campaign, the hackers have been zeroing in on energy facilities. Dragonfly 2.0 has been in operation since at least 2011 and is linked to the Russian government. The group potentially has the ability to sabotage or gain control of these systems. Activities associated with the group have kicked up a gear this year.

Cyber-attack groups have become increasingly interested in energy facilities and companies in the last two years, according to the report. In recent months, there have also been reports of attempted attacks on the electricity grids of Western countries, mostly driven through phishing attacks and aimed at reconnaissance or gaining a foothold in targeted networks rather than immediate disruption. It had initially targeted defence and aviation companies in the U.S. and Canada before it moved its crosshairs over to energy firms.

"This is the first time we've seen this scale, this aggressiveness and this level of penetration in the USA, for sure", Eric Chien, technical director of Symantec's Security Technology & Response Division, told BuzzFeed News.

However, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have previously linked Dragonfly to Russian Federation. Some code strings were in French, however, so Symantec is wary of language being used as a false flag to throw researchers off the trail of the attackers' origins. Once the target opens these attachments, the malware dropped trojans to steal victims' credentials. The toolkit consists of a Trojan virus created to steam a victim's credentials by way of a template injection attack. As well as this, the group used what is known as "watering hole" techniques, where they would carry out attacks on, and compromise, websites that were likely to be attacked by those in the energy industry. The group also used files pretending to be Flash updates that may be used to install malicious backdoors onto target networks. Such attacks falsely claim a Flash update is necessary to view content. Through a complex and relentless series of attacks on employee's email accounts the group are able to gain usernames and passwords.

Since 2014, the Dragonfly hackers have largely maintained a low profile. The Karagany Trojan was leaked on underground markets, so its recent use by Dragonfly is not necessarily exclusive.

Dragonfly was previously active from around to 2011 to 2014 when it appeared to go dormant after several cyber firms published research exposing its attacks.

Andrew Clarke, EMEA director at security vendor One Identity, said: "Studies in the U.S. report that cyber-attacks are a constant and daily occurrence on utility companies with some facilities receiving upwards of 10,000 attempted cyber-attacks each month - which equates to one attack every four minutes". "The impact of an attack against an atomic energy provider could potentially be a lot worse".

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