As if We All Didn’t Have Enough to Worry About: Let’s Look At Killware

As if We All Didn’t Have Enough to Worry About: Let’s Look At Killware

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but when it comes to cybersecurity threats it’s kind of hard not to be. I used to look at it from two sides; one side is fascinated at the innovation and intensely brutal ways that high-end cyberattacks work, and the other side of me loses sleep at night worrying about these risks affecting our clients, prospects, and even my own business. This one particular classification of cyberattack, however, takes the cake for being especially frightening. Let’s take a look at Killware. 

Introducing Killware

About as Bad As Cybercrime Gets

Imagine a computer virus or malware that is specifically designed for your organization. It knows the software and hardware you are using. It knows what settings and configurations can cause the most harm to your organization. It knows exactly how to slip in, infect the most vulnerable parts of your business, and do massive damage.

That implies a lot of things. It suggests that the cybercriminals targeting you are intimate with your organization and its inner workings. It suggests that the bad guys have an insider, or that you’ve already been compromised so severely that they may as well have an inside agent. Either way, at this point, the network is more their network than it is your own.

But it gets worse.

Not only can they dish out a threat to do harm to your business, but the goal of Killware is to cause as much public harm as possible. This is a frightening mixture of cybercrime and terrorism. It’s real, and it has real consequences.

A Cyberattack Almost Poisoned an Entire Community in Florida

In 2021, a water treatment plant in Oldsmar, Florida, a small city right in the heart of where we work, with a population of almost 15,000 people, suffered from a cyberattack. The attack seemed to have a singular goal; to raise the amount of sodium hydroxide in the water that Oldsmar residents were drinking. 

Sodium Hydroxide is used in water treatment to manage the pH level and reduce lead corrosion. In small amounts, it is considered safe. In larger quantities, it can cause severe burns and permanent tissue damage. The attack increased the amount of sodium hydroxide being added to the water by a factor of 100.

Fortunately, staff at the water treatment plant noticed the change immediately and nobody was hurt.

Cities and Local Government Systems are Often the Target

We’ve seen a few cases over the years where malware disrupted portions of city and town infrastructure. In 2018, Atlanta suffered from an attack that took down over a third of its systems, and it cost taxpayers over $17 million and over a year before things went back to normal.

In 2019, Baltimore suffered from a similar attack, which impacted the state’s real estate market and dozens of other systems. The attack cost the city an estimated $18 million.

Healthcare, Nonprofit Organizations, Banks, and Others are at Risk Too

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security warns that other critical services like hospitals, police departments, utilities, and other highly networked industries are potential targets for this kind of attack.

In order to reduce the risk, organizations need to take information security seriously, and ensure that regular audits are happening throughout the year. Committing to industry compliance standards is a good first step, but depending on your industry, your business may want to raise the bar even more.

No matter what kind of organization you run, you have employees and customers to protect. Symmetric IT Group can help secure your business so that your organization avoids doing harm to the community in the event of one of these devastating attacks. 

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