Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vulnerabilities / Threats //

Advanced Threats

10/22/2014
03:45 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Pharmaceuticals, Not Energy, May Have Been True Target Of Dragonfly, Energetic Bear

New research says the compromised companies were suppliers for OEMs that served pharma and biotech.

One of the biggest attack campaigns against critical infrastructure since Stuxnet might not actually have been aimed at critical infrastructure. New research on the Dragonfly, a.k.a. Energetic Bear, attacks that were first reported by F-Secure in June poses the theory that the group's true target was the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry, not the energy sector.

In a report released today by the signal transmission solution company Belden, Joel Langill, an industrial control systems security expert at RedHat Cyber, explains why he thinks Dragonfly was attacking small companies that supply original equipment manufacturers, which in turn supply the pharma-biotech sector.

Though pharma has not been called out as a target before, researchers had warned against assumptions that the bull's eye was on energy companies. As Dark Reading's Kelly Jackson Higgins reported in June:

    [Sean Sullivan, a security adviser at F-Secure] worries that the conclusions have been pointing too quickly to an energy sector attack only. "This is a very broad-based" campaign to cripple adversaries, including via manufacturers that supply their armies with food and other crucial items.

[Read what Symantec and F-Secure had to say about Dragonfly/Energetic Bear and why Kaspersky thinks it's a yeti, not a bear, on Dark Reading.]

Langill's research "is not focused on reverse engineering and dissecting the malware. Rather, it concentrated on executing the malicious code on systems that would reflect real-world ICS configurations. The impacts on various host and network devices in a typical ICS were then observed."

As Langill describes it, the group first used spear phishing to collect data about targets' suppliers. They used that information to "focus their efforts on localizing and exploiting companies that supply the target sector," by "Trojanizing" those companies' software, compromising their websites' content management systems, and allowing visitors to download those Trojanized applications -- which included industrial control systems' utilities and drivers.

The report reveals the identities of three such companies: Mesa, a manufacturer of industrial cameras and related software; MB Connect Line, a supplier of remote maintenance solutions for production facilities and packaging machines; and eWon, a producer of industrial security appliances and portal software.

eWon offers solutions for programmable logic solutions suppliers, including Siemens, Rockwell Automation, Omron, Schneider Electric, Mitsubishi Electric, and Hitachi. Some of these vendors were also targeted by Dragonfly's industrial protocol scanner module that searched for devices on ports 44818, 102, and 502. From the report:

    Notice that these specific products and protocols are not ones that dominate the energy industry. Instead the products from eWON appear to be targeted at machine builders that provide original equipment manufacturer (OEM) solutions to sectors such as pharmaceutical and food and beverage.

The report also points out that eWon is part of the ACT'L Group, which includes BiiON, an industrial system integrator for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, and KEOS, an environmental monitoring system common in pharmaceutical and life science facilities.

MB Connect Line supplies machine suppliers that supply to pharmaceuticals companies, and Mesa produces applications for automated guided vehicles that are common in pharmaceutical facilities.

All three companies are quite small -- Langill estimates fewer than 50 employees at each -- and use open-source content management systems on the websites that were compromised. He concludes:

    Logic would suggest it is much easier to compromise a small business' web servers than it would be to perform a similar attack against much larger corporations. Bigger organizations typically invest heavily in security for their public-facing cyber assets and normally do not depend on open-source software for their website CMS.

Though Dragonfly is now inactive, there is another operation, Epic Turla, which is still going and exhibits many of the same characteristics as Dragonfly -- spear phishing, watering holes, exploits of open-source content management systems, and downloads of Trojanized "trusted" software. From the report:

    It seems likely that the Dragonfly and Epic Turla campaigns are being run by the same masters for the same primary motive, namely industrial espionage against pharmaceutical companies. It also appears that the attackers are not just looking for the intellectual property associated with the product, but also information related to building facilities... The potential damage could include the theft of proprietary recipes and production batch sequence steps, as well as network and device information that indicate manufacturing plant volumes and capabilities.

Download the full report at http://info.belden.com/a-cyber-security-dragonfly-bc-lp (registration required).

Sara Peters is Senior Editor at Dark Reading and formerly the editor-in-chief of Enterprise Efficiency. Prior that she was senior editor for the Computer Security Institute, writing and speaking about virtualization, identity management, cybersecurity law, and a myriad ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
News
US Formally Attributes SolarWinds Attack to Russian Intelligence Agency
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  4/15/2021
News
Dependency Problems Increase for Open Source Components
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  4/14/2021
News
FBI Operation Remotely Removes Web Shells From Exchange Servers
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  4/14/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
The State of Ransomware
The State of Ransomware
Ransomware has become one of the most prevalent new cybersecurity threats faced by today's enterprises. This new report from Dark Reading includes feedback from IT and IT security professionals about their organization's ransomware experiences, defense plans, and malware challenges. Find out what they had to say!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-21981
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-19
VMware NSX-T contains a privilege escalation vulnerability due to an issue with RBAC (Role based access control) role assignment. Successful exploitation of this issue may allow attackers with local guest user account to assign privileges higher than their own permission level.
CVE-2021-20989
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-19
Fibaro Home Center 2 and Lite devices with firmware version 4.600 and older initiate SSH connections to the Fibaro cloud to provide remote access and remote support capabilities. This connection can be intercepted using DNS spoofing attack and a device initiated remote port-forward channel can be us...
CVE-2021-20990
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-19
In Fibaro Home Center 2 and Lite devices with firmware version 4.600 and older an internal management service is accessible on port 8000 and some API endpoints could be accessed without authentication to trigger a shutdown, a reboot or a reboot into recovery mode.
CVE-2021-20991
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-19
In Fibaro Home Center 2 and Lite devices with firmware version 4.540 and older an authenticated user can run commands as root user using a command injection vulnerability.
CVE-2021-20992
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-19
In Fibaro Home Center 2 and Lite devices in all versions provide a web based management interface over unencrypted HTTP protocol. Communication between the user and the device can be eavesdropped to hijack sessions, tokens and passwords.