In a world still reeling from the recent WannaCry attacks, who wants to hear about something even worse? Nobody, really. And yet, according to a recent article in the New York Times, A Cyberattack ‘the World Isn’t Ready For’, the worse may be yet to come—and we’d better be prepared.
Reporting on conversations with security expert Mr. Ben-Oni of IDT Corporation in Newark, NJ, the Times said that thousands of systems worldwide have been infected with a virus that was stolen from the NSA at the same time as the WannaCry virus. The difference is that this second cyber weapon, DoublePulsar, can enter a system without being detected by any current anti-virus software. It then inserts diabolical tools into the very kernel of the operating system, leaving an open “back door” for the hacker to do whatever they want with the computer, such as tracking activities or stealing user credentials.
“The world is burning about WannaCry, but this is a nuclear bomb compared to WannaCry,” Ben-Oni said. “This is different. It’s a lot worse. It steals credentials. You can’t catch it, and it’s happening right under our noses.”
The concern is that DoublePulsar can remain hidden, providing a platform from which hackers can launch attacks at any time. It may already be running on systems in hospitals, utility companies, power infrastructure, transportation networks, and more. Ben-Oni had secured IDT’s system with three full sets of firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection systems. And still the company was successfully attacked, through the home modem of a contractor.
Closing the Door on DoublePulsar
Severity of the threat aside, this scenario points out once again the inherent weakness of relying on a VPN to secure an Industrial IoT system. Had that contractor been connecting to a power plant, an oil pipeline, or a manufacturing plant over a VPN, it is likely that DoublePulsar could have installed itself throughout the system. As we have explained in our white paper Access Your Data, Not Your Network, this is because a VPN expands the plant’s security perimeter to include any outside user who accesses it.
This threat of attack underscores the importance of the secure-by-design architecture that Skkynet’s software and services embody. By keeping all firewalls closed, a cyber weapon like DoublePulsar cannot penetrate an industrial system, even if it should happen to infect a contractor or employee. SkkyHub provides this kind of secure remote access to data from industrial systems, without using a VPN.