(Bloomberg) -- Ransomware attacks against industrial organizations increased by 87% in 2022 from the year before, with most malicious software targeting the manufacturing sector, according to findings published Tuesday.
Hackers last year targeted mining industries in Australia and New Zealand, and continued their focus on renewable energy companies in the US and the European Union, the cybersecurity firm Dragos Inc. said in a report. Attackers also increased or accelerated their attacks on energy, food, water, electrical and natural gas sectors, the company determined.
“They’re definitely going after manufacturing a heck of a lot more than electric and oil and gas,” said Robert M. Lee, Dragos’ chief executive officer.
Dragos also found that one ransomware hacking tool could disrupt tens of thousands of systems that help manage global electricity infrastructure, gas pipelines and water companies. The so-called Pipedream malware, tied to the threat group Chernovite, can be reused against targets in different industries and can hamper a wide variety of industrial systems, Dragos said.
Dragos also underscored that threats against the energy sector and critical infrastructure increased following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. While Dragos said malicious activity ended up being less profound than expected, it nonetheless said that one unnamed Ukrainian power company still faced a “significant attack.”
To stave off attacks in general, the company recommended organizations create effective response plans, have tools for monitoring their infrastructure and secure access to their systems by implementing two-factor authentication.
The report comes after other findings suggested a downturn in successful extortion-related hacking. Overall, payments to ransomware groups dropped sharply in in 2022, with victims sending $456.8 million to hackers, down from $765.5 million in 2021, according to the blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis Inc.
In recent weeks, ransomware attacks have disrupted derivatives training and encumbered public school systems in Arizona and Massachusetts.