Monetized ransomware, pt. 1: technological progress brings new advantages hand-in-hand with more dangerous cyber threats

Nov 11, 2021

This is part one of a three part article on the emergence of cyberattacks and ransomware as a service industry.


Before the last decade or so, cyberattacks capable of causing disasters or endangering human lives existed only in science fiction. However, as modern cyber-physical systems have experienced advances that were once something we could only dream of, cyber crime has followed. Every increase in the functionality of operational technology has also increased the potential harm a cyberattack can cause, and so the progress of operational technology steadily increases the importance of solid cyber defenses.


Robots are one such asset that has gained a lot of potence recently, which has arrived in the form of technological advancements and a vast increase in the number of deployed robotic assets. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, robots have reduced exposure by taking on high-risk jobs. They have also allowed huge increases in the efficiency of vaccine manufacturing and administration. This immediately created a very appealing target for cybercriminals who are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to ratchet up pressure on stakeholders, hoping to get larger ransoms paid out faster. This is why TXOne Networks’ researchers recently participated in collaborative research to improve the security of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) without compromising their operational effectiveness.


The last 10 years have presented a consistent pattern of bad actors meticulously seeking entry to previously unexplored operational technology niches with the goal of extorting as much money as possible by any means necessary. Thus far incidents on record for robots have been accidental, resulting from misoperation or work sites that didn’t meet safety standards. In the near future, however, we can expect hackers to create a more detailed understanding of the operational circumstances of robotic assets and launch targeted attacks on these assets with the goal of endangering human lives.


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