On December 11, 2021, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, in partnership with the FBI and NSA, announced a critical remote code execution vulnerability had been identified in the Apache Log4j software library. This vulnerability allowed a successful threat actor to take control of a network system and cause a variety of damage, including the ability to launch ransomware, steal and destroy victim information, deploy malware, and disrupt internal and infrastructure operational control. Insurance regulators from four states have recently issued guidance in response to the threat, and it is likely more insurance commissioners will follow suit.
Ransomware incidents continue to be on the rise, wreaking havoc for organizations globally. Ransomware attacks target an organization’s data or infrastructure, and, in exchange for releasing the captured data or infrastructure, the attacker demands a ransom. This creates a dilemma for organizations — the decision to pay the ransom, relying on the attacker to release the data as they say, or to reject the ransom demand and try to restore the data or operations on their own.
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.
On July 2, 2021, Kaseya Ltd., a Florida-based firm that provides software tools to thousands of primarily small and mid-sized businesses, became the latest victim of a high-profile ransomware attack. The attack is believed to have affected as many as 1,500 of Kaseya’s customers throughout the world, including at least 200 businesses in the United States. The attackers, who have claimed association with the Russia-linked REvil ransomware gang, have demanded an astronomical $70 million ransom to restore services for affected businesses.
The Kaseya attack was particularly devastating and effective because it was a supply chain attack, meaning it targeted a type of software that many other companies use to manage and distribute software updates. Thus, the attack not only affected Kaseya, but also potentially all of its customers.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced a new Security Directive requiring companies in the pipeline sector “to better identify, protect against, and respond to” cyber threats. Among other things, the Security Directive requires pipeline operators to report cyberattacks against their pipelines to DHS. This new requirement replaces the voluntary reporting guidelines that had been in place since 2010.
The new Security Directive is a response to the May 2021 ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline that shut down much of the oil and gas distribution to the East Coast of the United States for approximately six days. According to various media reports, Colonial Pipeline ultimately elected to pay a Russian ransomware gang that claimed responsibility for the attack over four million dollars to re-open the crippled pipeline.