1 in 7 Ransomware Attacks Leak Critical OT Info: Mandiant

Mandiant Threat Reporting research has recently disclosed 1 in 7 Ransomware Extortion Attacks Leak Critical Operational Technology Information. In 2021, Mandiant Threat Intelligence observed ransomware operators extorting thousands of victims by disclosing terabytes of stolen info on shaming sites. This trend, called “Multifaceted Extortion” impacted over 1,300 organizations from critical infrastructure and industrial production sectors in just one year:

Based on our analysis, one out of every seven leaks from industrial organizations posted in ransomware extortion sites is likely to expose sensitive OT documentation. Access to this type of data can enable threat actors to learn about an industrial environment, identify paths of least resistance, and engineer cyber physical attacks. On top of this, other data also included in the leaks about employees, processes, projects, etc. can provide an actor with a very accurate picture of the target’s culture, plans, and operations.

That in effect implies that the attack surface that an enterprise would have to protect is huge. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Sam Jones, VP of Product Management, Stellar Cyber:

“The reality of today’s enterprises is that data is everywhere. It is on the computer, it is in SaaS apps, it is in homegrown apps, and it is likely now on employee personal computing assets. Unless a holistic data protection plan is in place, and an enterprise is detecting across all forms of the attack surface, this will likely be a worsening problem for most enterprises.”

I’d encourage enterprises of all sizes to read this report. Then they should consider how best to defend themselves. Be it using software, hardware, policies, or whatever is needed to get the job done.

UPDATE: Sanjay Raja, VP of Products and Solutions for Gurucul added this comment:

“The Mandiant report highlights how ransomware isn’t a ‘one-and-done’ attack campaign. While ransomware is seemingly focused on getting paid to unlock your sensitive data, threat actors often return multiple times once they are successful at an attack, knowing the victim has paid once. We also knew they often replicate the data for themselves for sale even as they lock organizations out of their own data. However, this additional extortion through threats of posting the already stolen data is another example of how threat actors find ways to extract more out of their victims. It feels like a never-ending cycle for targeted organizations. This reinforces the need to evaluate newer and more advanced technologies beyond current XDR and SIEM platforms as part of ongoing threat detection and response initiatives within security operations to prevent a successful detonation of ransomware. Prioritizing solutions that automate detection, prioritize seemingly random indicators of compromise for further investigation and even automating responses with a high-level of confidence and low impact are critical in deciding where to invest.”

UPDATE #2: Saumitra Das, CTO and Cofounder, Blue Hexagon added this commentary:

“The IT/OT barrier is more a logical separation than an actual one. Attacks typically start on the IT side and propagate into OT because of improper network segmentation and privilege limitations. In light of this report, focusing on the IT/OT boundary and protecting access to the OT networks is critical because defending against a threat once inside the OT network is much harder. Attackers can not only use IT network compromise to laterally move to OT but can now obtain detailed information and diagrams so they can plan their attack into the OT side.”

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