August 01, 2013, 2:18 PM — Attackers are actively targeting Internet-connected industrial control systems (ICS) in an effort to compromise their operation, according to data collected from a global network of honeypot systems that simulate water pumps.
The ICS honeypot system, designed to attract attackers, was created by Kyle Wilhoit, a researcher from security firm Trend Micro. He shared some initial findings in March based on the system's original deployment in the U.S.
The researcher shared new data regarding attacks at the Black Hat security conference on Thursday and also released the tools for others to build and deploy similar systems.
Since March, he has made significant changes to the system architecture. He virtualized it and deployed it in additional countries, including Brazil, Russia, Ireland, Singapore, China, Japan and Australia.
Wilhoit has identified 74 attacks against the ICS honeypot systems, 10 of which can be considered critical and could have compromised the integrity of the water pump.
In one case, an attacker tried to change the water temperature in the pump to 130 degrees Fahrenheit and in two other cases, the attackers issued commands to shut down the water pump.
Overall, 58 percent of attacks originated from Russia, but all of them were non-critical in nature.
Attacks classified as non-critical would have not have severely affected the water pump, but they could have led to critical attacks in the future, the researcher said.
Five of the critical attacks originated from China, and one each from Germany, the U.K., France, Palestine and Japan.
The critical attacks were targeted in nature and the attackers behind them generally tried to manually identify vulnerabilities in the components of the simulated water pump system, Willhoit said.
Meanwhile, the individuals behind the non-critical attacks first performed port scans and then used automated vulnerability scanners or known ICS vulnerabilities to try to break in.
The goal of some of the critical attacks was probably espionage or reconnaissance, as attackers were actively monitoring the data coming from the system, the researcher said.