Killware is the Next Big Cyberthreat


It may sound like some scary direct-to-DVD horror movie or video game, but the safety of industries, businesses and the general public are gleaming no entertainment or enjoyment about the next big threat.

As ransomware has seen a huge increase over the last two years thanks to the global pandemic and the pandora’s box it opened for businesses, it was only a matter of time before something much more sinister would branch out from it.

Rise of Killware

In the US, top homeland security officials are now focused on a new cyber threat – one designed to end lives through digital danger. That has been labelled Killware, and it is very real.

Earlier this year, the Colonial Pipeline suffered a ransomware attack that was catapulted into public attention due to consumer-related complications, including long lines at gas stations. Earlier in the year, an attack on a Florida water treatment facility was not done for financial gain – but rather for the intended purpose to harm.

The attack intended to distribute contaminated water to residents, which fortunately was discovered and did not succeed. Whilst this attack should have been leading headline news, it happened amid a flurry of large cyberattacks such as the SolarWinds intrusion into US government agencies, as well as the attacks on Microsoft and cybersecurity companies.

Bring It Down

Cybersecurity experts were quick to identify that the attack on the water treatment facility was a clear indication of cyberattacks designed and structured to target critical points of the nation’s infrastructure.

This resulted in potential targets of hospitals, water supplies, banks, police departments and the departments for transport being a focus in attacks designed and calculated with harmful intent to citizens, from injury to death.

With the attempted hack, a shadowing of grave risks posed by malicious cyber activity on public health and safety was very present. With attacks increasing in both frequency and intensity, cybersecurity was deemed the biggest priority on the agenda.

Threat on Life

With the onset of consumer-based products such as smart thermostats and autonomous vehicles making their way into daily lives, so too is the potential for minefields of threats.

The critical national infrastructure targets of oil and gas manufacturing, the energy sector, water and chemical systems as well as transportation, aviation and dams are one thing – but there is enough evidence to suggest that cybercriminals can weaponise operational technology within our own homes.

In 2017, a petrochemical facility discovered malware that was designed to disable the safety systems in place to shut down the plant during any hazardous event. This alone would have cost a high amount of life loss. It is not unreasonable to assume that this was the intended reason behind its design – making this very piece of malware a Killware.

The fact that this kind of malicious technology exists is the reason for a more alert sense for everybody to protect their infrastructure at home, work or elsewhere.

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