Why Are Ransomware Attacks Against OT Increasing?

Most discussions around cybersecurity understandably focus on information technology (IT). Assets like cloud services and data centers are typically what companies spend the most time and effort securing. Recently, though, operational technology (OT) has come under increasing scrutiny from leading security experts in both the private and public sectors.

In June, for instance, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released a fact sheet about ransomware attacks on OT. The publication references a growing trend of ransomware targeting these systems. Attacks on OT, especially critical infrastructure, are certainly concerning, but it may not be immediately clear why they’re growing.

Here’s a closer look at ransomware attacks on OT, what drives them, and how companies can prevent them going forward.

A Growing Attack Surface

Traditionally, OT hasn’t been a major cybersecurity concern because these machines operated independently of other systems or featured no digital entry points. As the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has grown, however, this is no longer the case. Everything from manufacturing robotics to logistics networks to power grids now features IoT connectivity, increasing potential attack surfaces.

IoT connectivity now rivals non-IoT device connections in terms of the number of connected devices. Every single one of these endpoints also represents a potential access point for malicious hackers. Wireless connectivity gives cybercriminals access to infrastructure like utility lines and building management systems where none previously existed.

As organizations’ attack surfaces grow, it becomes increasingly challenging to secure all endpoints. Cybercriminals have capitalized on this opportunity, too, with overall ransomware attacks rising 195% in Q1 2019, while those against individuals fell 33%. Malicious hackers now prefer to attack businesses with growing OT vulnerabilities over consumers.

Rising Payouts

Opportunity alone isn’t the only driving factor behind the rise in OT ransomware attacks. As companies collect and process more data through (Read more…)

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