Revelations of a major hacking campaign against the British energy sector have highlighted the importance of building a secure network to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure.
A recent report from GCHQ detailed how energy firms had faced an unprecedented malware attack on their websites which redirected users to a site controlled by the attackers.
A technique known as a ‘watering hole’ attack was used to distribute malware into businesses working in the UK energy sector. The attackers added scripts to legitimate websites frequented by energy sector staff, which led visitors’ browsers to be surreptitiously redirected to download malware from an attacker-owned server.
According to the intelligence and security organisation, the malware targeted known and patchable vulnerabilities in Java, older internet browsers, and all but the most recent versions of Microsoft Windows. The attack was able to harvest visitors’ credentials and computer system information, and then send this information back to the hackers.
Fortunately, security monitoring of network activity detected command and control messages from malware on the infected computers and the attack was stopped before it could affect the targeted businesses.
But GCHQ said it believed that the attack was part of a continuing espionage campaign against the UK energy sector.
The growing threat of such cyber attacks was on the agenda when Prime Minister David Cameron met President Barack Obama in the White House last week.
The two countries have agreed to conduct transatlantic cyber war games to test the resilience of key sectors in the face of mounting global cyber-attacks.
The joint exercises and training of our next generation of cyber-experts will help to ensure that we have the capability we need to protect critical sectors like our energy, transport and financial infrastructure from emerging threats, the prime minister said.