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Honeywell report reveals “silent residency” is driving escalating cyber threat for industrial and critical infrastructure facilities

Honeywell report reveals “silent residency” is driving escalating cyber threat for industrial and critical infrastructure facilities

Honeywell (NASDAQ: HON) today released its 2024 USB Threat Report, which provides new insight into how “silent residency” is an increasing cyber threat for industrial and critical infrastructure facilities. In the report, Honeywell highlighted the growing risk of “living off the land” (“LotL”) attacks in which adversaries use USB devices to gain access to industrial control systems to hide and observe operations before launching attacks that evade detection and manipulate the target systems.

“Targeted cyber-physical attacks are more than zero-day exploits that take advantage of an unknown or unaddressed vulnerability. Instead, they are now also about silent residency – using LotL attacks to wait until there is an opportune moment to turn a system against itself,” said Micheal Ruiz, Vice President of OT Cybersecurity for Honeywell.

Now in its sixth year, the report underscores the severe risk USB-borne malware poses to industrial and critical infrastructure facilities. Key findings in the report indicate that adversaries now have a strong understanding of industrial environments and how they operate. According to the report, most of the malware detected on USB devices by Honeywell’s Secure Media Exchange could cause loss of view or loss of control of an industrial process, a potentially catastrophic scenario for operators.

“As digital transformation and automation accelerate, so does the exposure to sophisticated and malicious cyberattacks that can have devastating consequences in terms of reputation, safety and continuity,” said Ruiz. “There are numerous ways a bad actor can infiltrate an OT environment, including through USBs. With Honeywell’s advanced end-to-end technology and deep experience, we partner with our customers to improve their ability to protect their assets and data from these threats.”

The 2024 report is based on the Honeywell Global Analysis, Research and Defense (GARD) team’s tracking and analysis of aggregated cybersecurity threat data from hundreds of industrial facilities globally during 12 months.

Several of the report’s additional key findings included:

  • USB devices continue to be used as an initial attack vector into industrial environments, as 51% of malware is designed to spread via USB, a nearly six-fold increase from 9% in 2019.

  • Content-based malware, which uses existing documents and scripting functions maliciously, is on the rise, accounting for 20% of malware.

  • Over 13% of all malware blocked specifically leveraged the inherent capabilities of common documents, such as Word, Excel and PDF documents.

  • 82% of malware is capable of causing disruption to industrial operations, resulting in loss of view, loss of control, or system outages in OT environments.

About Honeywell

Honeywell is an integrated operating company serving a broad range of industries and geographies around the world. Our business is aligned with three powerful megatrends – automation, the future of aviation and energy transition – underpinned by our Honeywell Accelerator operating system and Honeywell Connected Enterprise integrated software platform. As a trusted partner, we help organizations solve the world’s toughest, most complex challenges, providing actionable solutions and innovations through our Aerospace Technologies, Industrial Automation, Building Automation and Energy and Sustainability Solutions business segments that help make the world smarter, safer and more sustainable.

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