Operating tech ripe for ransomware attacks

Operational tech ripe for more ransomware attacks

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Real estate was relatively unscathed in the growing number of ransomware attacks perpetrated in Canada last year. A new report and threat assessment from the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (known as the Cyber Centre) identifies 19 sectors targeted between January 1 and December 31, 2022 and estimates real estate was victimized in about 3 per cent of reported incidents.

The hardest hit sectors were manufacturing, which suffered 18 per cent of the attacks, and business and professional services, which accounted for another 14 per cent. Eight other sectors each absorbed a larger share of the grief than real estate, while construction, finance and energy and utilities likewise experienced 3 per cent of the attacks.

Nevertheless, impacts on victims’ business operations typically have fallout beyond the extorted party. The Cyber Centre — which provides advice to the Canadian government as part of its Communications Security Establishment — ranks ransomware as the most pervasive and disruptive cybercrime in Canada currently.

The compromise of business email accounts, allowing perpetrators to pfish or send out phony communication such as invoices or requests for personal information, is also highlighted as a common and financially damaging cybercrime. However, it is categorized as “less technical” and more reliant on social engineering than ransomware, which encrypts victims’ data and makes it inaccessible.

The report projects cybercriminals will increasingly take up “big game hunting” directed at critical infrastructure, perceiving that they will be more likely to score a big payout. “We assess that organized cybercriminal groups will almost certainly continue to target critical infrastructure providers, including organizations in Canada, in medium-sophistication attacks to try to extract ransom, steal intellectual property and proprietary business information and obtain personal data about customers,” it states.

Of interest to the commercial real estate and facilities management sectors, the report also underscores potential threats to operational technology (OT). “The disruption or sabotage of OT systems in Canadian critical infrastructure poses a costly threat to owner-operators of large OT assets and could conceivably jeopardize national security, public and environmental safety and the economy,” it warns.

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