Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created a host of challenges for the U.S. government to address, including the need to prepare for potential Russian cyberattacks and questions about how to handle Russian connections to supply chains and government contracts. In this episode of the Faegre Drinker on Law and Technology Podcast, host Jason G. Weiss sits down with Faegre Drinker partners Dana Pashkoff and Jessica Abrahams to unpack the thorny issues at the nexus of Russia, cybersecurity and U.S. government activity.
Cyberattacks are an increasingly common presence in the news, and disruptionware has emerged as a popular — and particularly nefarious — type of attack. Disruptionware poses an especially troubling threat, because it attacks both an organization’s information technology and operational technology networks — often with highly destructive goals. In this episode of the Faegre Drinker on Law and Technology Podcast, host Jason G. Weiss sits down with Peter Baldwin to break down disruptionware attacks, the industries that are most susceptible to them, and what we can learn from high-profile incidents.
I have written multiple times about the danger of disruptionware to both Information Technology (IT) networks as well as Operational Technologies (OT) networks of victims globally. As discussed here, many different nefarious tools make up the disruptionware “tool kit.” These tools include, but are not limited to:
- Bricking capabilities tools
- Automated components
- Data exfiltration tools
- Network reconnaissance tools
The most well-known and most used of all these tools is ransomware malware. Ransomware attacks have grown exponentially over the past few years. Dozens of ransomware gangs are launching ransomware attacks and terrorizing and extorting businesses throughout the world. This has included specific attacks against the U.S. energy sector as well as U.S. infrastructure projects.
The year 2021 continues to reveal an alarming rise in ransomware attacks. Two of the most notable of such attacks include the ransomware attack on CNA Financial Corp., with resulting payment of $40 million in ransom, and the attack on Colonial Pipeline Co., with a ransom payment of $4.4 million.
With these two recent ransomware attacks—and subsequent payments—receiving massive publicity, congressional law makers have begun to question whether ransom payments should be permitted or remain legal, or if federal law makers should step in to prohibit such ransom payments as a means to curtail these forms of attacks. Although no bill taking that approach has been introduced yet, recent discussions of such a law have given rise to debate on the issue.
We have posted four previous articles discussing the foundation and structure of what a disruptionware attack is, how their attack matrix works, possible defenses to disruptionware attacks and industries that are very susceptible to these attacks. Disruptionware has proven over the last year that it is a growing and dangerous cyber threat to our data, our businesses and possibly our lives.
Disruptionware attacks typically involve ransomware and they aim to encrypt and hold the victim’s data hostage. Such attacks are usually financially motivated, and, to date, there have fortunately been only a few known examples where the disruptionware attack has resulted in threats to health and safety or caused loss of life. When such significant collateral damage has occurred, it typically appears to have been inadvertently caused.
Over the past few months, I have written about the threat first identified by the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT) called disruptionware. We have previously described what disruptionware is, how it works, and outlined some of the defenses that can be used to defend against a multitude of disruptionware attacks. Many may have thought the immediate notifications of the threat posed by this new concept of disruptionware had been adequately made public and sufficiently identified. Unfortunately, disruptionware continues to impact new sectors.
According to ICIT, disruptionware is an evolving category of malware designed to “suspend operations within the victim organization through the compromise of the availability, integrity and confidentiality of the data, systems, and networks belonging to the target.” Recently, ICIT identified a new threat from disruptionware that will likely have a seriously adverse effect on the American energy sector. ICIT goes so far as to refer to disruptionware in the context of an attack on the U.S. energy grid as a “weapon of mass destruction.”