The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) published a Cybersecurity Advisory that highlights the steps malicious actors have commonly followed to compromise operational technology (OT)/industrial control system (ICS) assets and provides recommendations on how to defend against them.
“Control System Defense: Know the Opponent” notes the increasing threats to OT and ICS assets that operate, control, and monitor day-to-day critical infrastructure and industrial processes. OT/ICS designs are publicly available, as are a wealth of tools to exploit IT and OT systems.
Cyber actors, including advanced persistent threat (APT) groups, have targeted OT/ICS systems in recent years to achieve political gains, economic advantages, and possibly to execute destructive effects. Recently, they’ve developed tools for scanning, compromising, and controlling targeted OT devices.
“Owners and operators of these systems need to fully understand the threats coming from state-sponsored actors and cybercriminals to best defend against them,” said Michael Dransfield, NSA Control Systems Defense Expert. “We’re exposing the malicious actors’ playbook so that we can harden our systems and prevent their next attempt.”
This joint Cybersecurity Advisory builds on previous NSA and CISA guidance to stop malicious ICS activity and reduce OT exposure. Noting that traditional approaches to securing OT/ICS do not adequately address threats to these systems, NSA and CISA examine the tactics, techniques, and procedures cyber actors employ so that owners and operators can prioritize hardening actions for OT/ICS.
Defenders should employ the mitigations listed in this advisory to limit unauthorized access, lock down tools and data flows, and deny malicious actors from achieving their desired effects.