The scourge that is ransomware is spreading in the manufacturing sector, according new research from Fortinet. Over the course of seven months, from Oct. 1, 2015, to April 30, 2016, Fortinet recorded 8.63 million attempted attacks against 59 manufacturers around the world.
The attacks were mostly aimed at the larger manufacturers, with 78 percent of them targeting manufacturing organizations with 1,000 or more employees. Also of note is that out of the 8.63 million attacks, 29 percent were from a Trojan called Nemucod, which carries ransomware as part of its malicious payload.
Ransomware has been a growing concern in 2016, with the FBI warning in May of a significant uptick in activity. Among the high-profile ransomware incidents have been a series against hospital operations that quite literally have put lives at risk.
There are a number of reasons why ransomware attacks on the manufacturing sector are successful, not the least of which is because they take advantage of known exploits. Fortinet's Q1 2016 Cyber Threat Assessment Program (CTAP) report, which examines the period from Jan. 1 to April 30, 2016, reported that the Necurs botnet is the most prevalent in manufacturing at 41.46 percent, followed by Conficker at 17.7 percent.
Conficker is notable because it's a worm that first attacked Microsoft systems back in 2008 and was patched by Microsoft in that same year. Yet despite the fact that Conficker was patched seven years ago, it's still a problem in manufacturing.
"Most exploits are still attacking solved problems," John Maddison, senior vice president of products and solutions at Fortinet, told eWEEK. "It's those who do not patch who are most at risk."
A lot of solved problems are ultimately exploited, according to Maddison. Looking specifically at application vulnerability exploit attempts in the manufacturing sector, Fortinet found that 82.8 percent of attempts were against CVE-2015-6125, which is a Microsoft DNS caching vulnerability that Microsoft patched as part of its December 2015 Patch Tuesday update. In its advisory, Microsoft stated that the vulnerability could allow remote code execution if an attacker sends specially crafted requests to a DNS server.
Coming far behind in second place, in terms of manufacturing sector application vulnerability exploit attempts, is the combination of CVE-2014-7169 and CVE-2014-6278, better known as Shellshock. The Shellshock vulnerabilities were patched in September 2014. Even older than Shellshock and Conficker is the third place vulnerability (at 4.34 percent), identified as CVE-2007-1365, an OpenBSD IPv6 fragment buffer overflow issue.
There are a number of things that manufacturers should be doing to help limit the risks of ransomware and attacks. Fortinet suggests that an organization should be protecting, monitoring and segmenting all of its data. The segmentation piece is of particular importance as a "flat" (non-segmented) network provides an attacker an easier path to move around a network from an initial point of compromise.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.