According to the latest Honeywell research, there exist a plethora of cyber threats that are architectured to use USB sticks and other external media devices as launching pads doubled in 2021. 

Physically distributed malicious content using USB drives:

It was found that out of all of the cyber threats that are posed by USB drives and other technology devices, about 79% of them could be potentially utilized to critically compromise operational technology frameworks.

According to Honeywell, the industrial automation organization, the observation stems from a collective data of hundreds of industrial systems over 12 months. 

“USB-borne malware was a serious and expanding business risk in 2020, with clear indications that removable media has become part of the playbook used by organized and targeted attacks, including ransomware,” Eric Knapp, director of cybersecurity research at Honeywell Connected Enterprise stated. 

It is concerning to regard that USB drivers can prove to be very expedient in acquiring a grip into critical, sensitive networks for malicious actors as a result of several industrial networks being isolated from the internet.

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USB drivers are known to have carried and distributed dangerous malware such as the Stuxnet or WannaCry malware in several instances.

According to 2018, there were cases of more than 20 industrial settings around the globe that encountered malicious content or files from external USB drives or storage devices. 

Back in 2020, it was also found that a threat group had tried to compromise victims by sending the USB drives containing malicious content via the mail.

Security experts analyzing these observations are of the opinion that cyberattacks of such nature are generally driven by opportunity and that it may fail to direct that a system was targeted on purpose. A case that contemplated this scenario is the attack on water suppliers in San Francisco and Florida where their remote management software was compromised using employee credentials.

An ever-rising concern of cyber threats:

Security researchers have specifically highlighted the case of rising ransomware attacks targeting the manufacturing and energy provider industries, especially during the pandemic. Honeywell was the victim of such an attack earlier this year.