Cyberspies Believed Targeting Western Energy Firms

A group of cyberattackers has been planting malware in the industrial control system (ICS) software of energy companies in the U.S. and Europe to spy on their operations, according to researchers at security firm Symantec.

Among the targets of the group of attackers, identified by Symantec as Dragonfly, were energy grid operators, major electricity generation firms, petroleum pipeline operators, and energy industry industrial equipment providers. The majority of the victims were located in the United States, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Turkey and Poland.

Known by other security vendors as Energetic Bear, the Dragonfly Group appears to have been in operation since at least 2011 and maybe even longer. Dragonfly initially targeted defense and aviation companies in the U.S. and Canada before shifting its focus mainly to U.S and European energy firms in early 2013.

State-Sponsored Hackers?

Analysis of the timestamps on the malware used by the attackers indicates that the group mostly worked between Monday and Friday, mainly in a nine-hour period that corresponded to a 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. working day in the UTC +4 time zone. Based on that information, it is likely the attackers are based in Eastern Europe and are a state-sponsored operation, Symantec said.

The Dragonfly Group displays a high degree of technical capability, Symantec said in a blog post on Tuesday. The attackers have not yet used their cyberespionage tools to inflict serious damage or disrupt energy supplies in the affected countries. But it is believed to be only a matter of time.

Worst May Be Coming

EUThe group is able to mount attacks through multiple vectors and compromise numerous third-party Web sites in the process,EU Symantec said. EUDragonfly has targeted multiple organizations in the energy sector over a long period of time. Its current main motive appears to be cyberespionage, with potential for sabotage a definite...

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