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Engineering workstations deemed riskiest in critical infrastructure facilities

While hackers target most operational technology (OT) and industrial control system (ICS) devices, some receive more attention than others.

According to recent research from asset visibility and security company Armis, engineering workstations — specialized computers designed to handle complex tasks — were the most targeted devices in manufacturing, utilities, and transportation.

Worryingly, over half of all engineering workstations (56%) had at least one unpatched critical vulnerability, with 16% of devices susceptible to bugs with known active exploits published over 18 months ago. This means that some vital industries rely on devices with bugs that were exploited in 2021 and before.

According to the study, the second most targeted type of devices in critical infrastructure are supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) servers. Facilities use SCADA servers to monitor and control industrial processes.

The next in line were the uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), critical for maintaining energy supply during a power outage. According to the study, 60% of UPS devices had at least one unpatched critical bug. Attackers could leverage the vulnerabilities to cause physical damage to the facilities.

Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) were also deemed somewhat dangerous for critical infrastructure companies, as 41% of these devices had unpatched flaws. Industrial companies use PLCs to control and automate various processes.

Researchers advise critical infrastructure companies to encourage cooperation between OT and IT teams, as attackers will leverage known exploits to target industrial companies for financial gain.

“To navigate the challenges of the new industrial era, security professionals need an IT/OT convergence security solution that shields all assets connected to the network,” said Nadir Izrael, CTO and Co-founder of Armis.

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