Sandworm, a Russian Danger Actor, Disrupted Power in Ukraine Via Cyberattack


Any company that is strategic might be targeted for the very same sort of actions as this cyberattack. Follow these tips to mitigate your company’s threat to this cybersecurity hazard.

Mandiant, a cybersecurity business owned by Google, has actually revealed the information of a 2022 cyberattack run by Russian risk star Sandworm. The risk star compromised a Ukrainian vital infrastructure organization to control its functional innovation environment, leading to a power outage that accompanied mass rocket strikes. Then, Sandworm tried to cause more disturbance and get rid of all evidence of its operation 2 days later on by releasing and running a version of the CADDYWIPER malware.

This cyberattack is a striking example of advancement in OT targeting throughout wartime. Any business that is strategic to an attacker could be targeted for the exact same kind of actions.

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Timeline of this cybersecurity attack

All of it began around June 2022, when Sandworm accessed to the IT environment of a Ukrainian crucial facilities organization. The hazard star deployed a recognized webshell, Neo-reGeorg, on an internet-facing server of the victim. About a month later on, the group released GOGETTER, a known customized tunneling software application previously utilized by the group. The malware proxied communications between the targeted system and the attacker’s command & control server and was made consistent in case of a server reboot.

The danger group then accessed the OT environment “through a hypervisor that hosted a Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) management instance for the victim’s substation environment,” according to Mandiant researchers, who specified the opponent potentially had access to the SCADA system for as much as three months.

On Oct. 10, 2022, the hazard actor suddenly performed MicroSCADA commands on the system. The action was done by leveraging an ISO file, a virtual CD-ROM which contained 2 scripts and one text file. The system was set up to allow inserted CD-ROMs to be introduced automatically when placed. Those files were used to execute a native MicroSCADA binary within the system, scilc.exe (Figure A).

Figure A

Execution chain in the target's SCADA environment. Execution chain in the target’s SCADA environment. Image: Mandiant The genuine scilc.exe file from the MicroSCADA software application suite allows the execution of commands composed in Supervisory Control Implementation Language, which are usually text-based statements. Although Mandiant scientists were not able to determine the SCIL commands carried out by Sandoworm, they think the commands were most likely provided to open breaker in the victims’ substation environments, therefore switching off the victim’s substation.

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According to Mandiant, the attack led to an unscheduled power failure.

Two days after this occasion, the danger star installed a brand-new version of the CADDYWIPER malware in the target’s environment to cause more disruption and potentially get rid of forensic artifacts that could cause the discovery of the operation. CADDYWIPER is cleaning software that has actually been formerly utilized against Ukrainian targets by Sandworm and observed in disruptive operations throughout several invasions. In the reported attack, the wiper did not reach the hypervisor of the SCADA virtual device that was jeopardized– which is unusual, according to Mandiant. The security scientists conclude that this failure to remove evidence “may arise from an absence of coordination across different people or operational subteams involved in the attack.”

SEE: Google Cloud’s Cybersecurity Trends to View in 2024 (TechRepublic)

Who is Sandworm?

Sandworm is a damaging risk star that has been attributed to Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Army, Armed Force Unit 74455. The group has been active considering that a minimum of 2009.

Six Unit 74455 officers associated to Sandworm were prosecuted in 2020 for several operations: Attacks versus Ukrainian electrical business and federal government companies; the targeting of the 2017 French presidential campaign, the 2018 Olympic Destroyer attack versus the Olympic Games, the 2018 operation against the Organisation for the Restriction of Chemical Defense and attacks against Georgia in 2018 and 2019.

Sandworm exposes Russia’s OT-oriented offensive cyber capabilities

Sandworm’s newest attack, in addition to previous attacks stemming from Russia such as the Industroyer occurrences, which likewise targeted OT, reveal efforts from Russia to improve OT attack capabilities through streamlined release features, according to Mandiant. The scientists discussed “a continued financial investment in OT-oriented offending cyber abilities and general approach to assaulting IT systems” (Figure B).

Figure B

Historical Russia-nexus activity impacting OT. Historical Russia-nexus activity affecting OT. Image: Mandiant One considerable modification in the methods used by Sandworm is the use of native Living Off The Land binary, aka LotLBin, which they now utilize for OT environments as much as for typical IT environments. This modification probably reduced the resources required for Sandworms attacks while making it harder for protectors to detect the fraudulent activity.

The timing of this Sandworm attack is likewise intriguing. As exposed by Mandiant, the enemies possibly developed the disruptive capability three weeks prior to the OT event however might have been waiting for a particular moment to deploy the ability. “The ultimate execution of the attack accompanied the start of a multi-day set of coordinated rocket strikes on vital infrastructure throughout several Ukrainian cities, consisting of the city in which the victim was located,” writes Mandiant.

How to secure from this cybersecurity hazard

Security admins or IT pros should follow these ideas to alleviate the risk of this cybersecurity risk.

  • Harden MicroSCADA and other SCADA management hosts. These systems require to be as much as date and patched, and set up to need authentication and restrict access to just obligatory users for the systems.
  • Put network segmentation in location between the SCADA systems and the rest of the company’s network.
  • Aggregate log files to a central server and carefully evaluate them constantly to spot possible deceitful use or modification of the SCADA systems.
  • Screen and analyze any file transfer associated to the SCADA systems. Any suspicious change in SCADA configuration or information requires to be investigated.
  • Conduct regular security audits on SCADA systems to identify possible vulnerabilities or misconfigurations that might affect the security of the systems.
  • Do regular backups to help with recovery in case of a security event or cyberattack on SCADA systems.

Disclosure: I work for Trend Micro, but the views expressed in this short article are mine.


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