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Ransomware Attacks Highlight Critical Infrastructure Threat

While 2023 has passed without a Colonial Pipeline-like ransomware event (so far), a recent spate of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure underscores that hackers aren’t done targeting essential systems.

ransomware 3998798 640 smallMost recently, as NPR reports, cyberattacks with ties to Iran have threatened U.S. water facilities and factories. According to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agencies, an Iran-linked hacking group called “CyberAv3ngers” is “actively targeting and compromising” U.S. systems for their use of Israeli-made computer equipment.

The gear in question—described by CISA as “Unitronics Vision Series programmable logic controllers”—is most prevalent in water and wastewater but is also relied on by companies in energy, food and beverages and healthcare.

Fewer than 10 water facilities were reportedly targeted in the attacks, including a water authority near Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania lawmakers, in a letter to the U.S. attorney general, wrote, “If a hack like this can happen here in Western Pennsylvania, it can happen elsewhere in the United States.”

Indeed, they weren’t alone. As Axios reports, a ransomware attack recently led some hospitals to scrap elective procedures and divert ambulances from emergency rooms. The North Texas Municipal Water District has also been looking into an apparent ransomware attack. And real Estate services company Fidelity National Financial was hobbled by ransomware last month.

Allan Liska of Recorded Future told Axios that the year so far has seen 317 publicly recorded ransomware attacks on health care entities, up from 245 in all of last year, and 243 on schools, up from 189 in all of last year.

As GovTech blogger Dan Lorhmann writes, while attacks on critical infrastructure haven't been 2023’s top cybersecurity story, they have ramped up so much this year that organizations worldwide face “death by a thousand cuts.” The lack of a Colonial Pipeline-scale infrastructure hack this year is welcome, he observes, but cybersecurity pros must remain on guard in 2024.


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