Hackers target power grids

September 07, 2017 //By Nick Flaherty
Power grids in Europe and the US are being being targeted by a new wave of cyber attacks

The Dragonfly group has been operating since 2011, says security firm Symantec, but has started a new campaign in recent months that could be a prelude to disruption.

The group appears to be interested in both learning how energy facilities operate and also gaining access to operational systems themselves, says Symantec. This is particularly strong in the US, Turkey and Switzerland, using a range of techniques from malicious ‘phishing’ emails to Trojans. As well as sending malicious emails, the attackers also used watering hole attacks to harvest network credentials by compromising websites that were likely to be visited by those involved in the energy sector.

The stolen credentials were then used in follow-up attacks against the target organizations. Symantec also has evidence to suggest that files masquerading as Flash updates may be used to install malicious backdoors onto target networks.

It can be hard to attribute attacks to any one particular group, but the Heriplor and Karagany Trojans used in Dragonfly 2.0 were both also used in the earlier Dragonfly campaigns between 2011 and 2014.

Trojan.Heriplor is a backdoor that appears to be exclusively used by Dragonfly, and is one of the strongest indications that the group that targeted power operators between 2011 and 2014 is the same group that is behind the more recent attacks. This custom malware is not available on the black market, and has not been observed being used by any other known attack groups. It has only ever been seen being used in attacks against targets in the energy sector.