Hackers of two Ukrainian utilities probably hit mining and railroad targets, too

The attacks may have been test runs for the devastating power-company hacks

The attackers who crippled Ukrainian power operators in December probably committed attacks shortly before against a mining company and a railway operator, Trend Micro said Thursday.

The security company said its latest technical research shows that the same malware -- dubbed BlackEnergy and KillDisk -- were probably used in the earlier actions. It didn't name the targets of those attacks, which took place in November and December.

"There is remarkable overlap between the malware used, infrastructure, naming conventions, and to some degree, the timing of use for this malware," wrote Kyle Wilhoit, a senior threat researcher.

The cyberattacks against the two utilities, Prykarpattyaoblenergo and Kyivoblenergo, have caused widespread concern in the security community, which has warned that attacks against industrial control systems could cause great damage.

Kyivoblenergo said 80,000 customers lost power for six hours after 30 substations went offline. Service was restored after operators took manual control and closed circuit breakers.

The malware used in the attacks, known as Black Energy, has been linked by the security firm iSight Partners to a group nicknamed the Sandworm Team, which is suspected to be from Russia. Relations between Ukraine and Russia have been tense since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

BlackEnergy probably infected the large mining company, according to Wilhoit. The malware in the earlier attack communicated with the same command-and-control servers as the tools that infected the two utilities, he wrote.

The mining company also was infected with several versions of KillDisk, which is designed to make a computer unusable by overwriting the Master Boot Record (MBR), the first sector of a PC’s hard drive. KillDisk also overwrites files with junk data.

"While none of the exact samples in the prior utility attacks appear to have been used against the mining organization, the specific samples witnessed perform the same exact functionality as those witnessed at the Ukrainian power utilities, with very little difference," Wilhoit wrote.

There also are indications that KillDisk affected the railway operator. Trend Micro believes that BlackEnergy was probably on the railroad's systems, too.

"The infections in the mining and train companies may have just been preliminary infections where the attackers are just attempting to test the code base," Wilhoit wrote.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?