In addition to oil and gas companies, the XENOTIME threat group has begun targeting electric utility organizations located in the U.S. and elsewhere.

In February 2019, Dragos observed XENOTIME probing the networks of electric utility organizations, trying to gather information and enumerate network resources associated with organizations based in the U.S. and the Asia-Pacific region. In so doing, the threat group expanded its range of targets from oil and gas organizations to another critical infrastructure sector.

While Dragos did not observe any of these attack attempts result in a successful intrusion, the digital security firm said that the group’s expansion of malicious activity to the electric utility sector is cause for concern. Specifically, Dragos researchers noted that the threat group could be using these attacks to try to fulfill some of the prerequisites for executing a prolonged disruptive or destructive event on electric utility operations.

XENOTIME: A Growing Threat to Industrial Control Systems

XENOTIME has been a problem for critical infrastructure companies for some time now. Back in December 2017, FireEye discovered that the group had used TRITON/TRISIS malware in an attempt to disrupt the industrial processes at a critical infrastructure organization in the Middle East.

Over the next year, Dragos identified several compromises of industrial control system (ICS) vendors and manufacturers in which XENOTIME was the culprit. In April 1029, FireEye confirmed that it was analyzing an additional intrusion in which XENOTIME deployed TRITON malware at a different critical infrastructure utility.

How to Defend ICS Assets Against Digital Threats

Defending ICS assets against digital threats starts with the creation and implementation of a robust testing program that consists of system and device configuration checks, network traffic analysis, offline vulnerability research and penetration tests on an ongoing basis.

Critical infrastructure organizations should also use device inventories, automated scanning, advanced behavioral analytics and other tools to harden their industrial internet of things (IoT) systems.

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