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The adversary is trying to gather data of interest and domain knowledge on your ICS environment to inform their goal.

Collection consists of techniques adversaries use to gather domain knowledge and obtain contextual feedback in an ICS environment. This tactic is often performed as part of Discovery, to compile data on control systems and targets of interest that may be used to follow through on the adversary’s objective. Examples of these techniques include observing operation states, capturing screenshots, identifying unique device roles, and gathering system and diagram schematics. Collection of this data can play a key role in planning, executing, and even revising an ICS-targeted attack. Methods of collection depend on the categories of data being targeted, which can include protocol specific, device specific, and process specific configurations and functionality. Information collected may pertain to a combination of system, supervisory, device, and network related data, which conceptually fall under high, medium, and low levels of plan operations. For example, information repositories on plant data at a high level or device specific programs at a low level. Sensitive floor plans, vendor device manuals, and other references may also be at risk and exposed on the internet or otherwise publicly accessible.

Techniques in this Tactics Category

Below is a list of all the Collection techniques in ATT&CK for ICS:

NameTacticsTechnical Description
Automated CollectionCollectionAdversaries may automate collection of industrial environment information using tools or scripts. This automated collection may leverage native control protocols and tools available in the control systems environment. For example, the OPC protocol may be used to enumerate and gather information. Access to a system or interface with these native protocols may allow collection and enumeration of other attached, communicating servers and devices.
Data from Information RepositoriesCollectionAdversaries may target and collect data from information repositories. This can include sensitive data such as specifications, schematics, or diagrams of control system layouts, devices, and processes. Examples of target information repositories include reference databases and local machines on the process environment.
Detect Operating ModeCollectionAdversaries may gather information about the current operating state of a PLC. CPU operating modes are often controlled by a key switch on the PLC. Example states may be run, prog, stop, remote, and invalid. Knowledge of these states may be valuable to an adversary to determine if they are able to reprogram the PLC.
Detect Program StateCollectionAdversaries may seek to gather information about the current state of a program on a PLC. State information reveals information about the program, including whether it's running, halted, stopped, or has generated an exception. This information may be leveraged as a verification of malicious program execution or to determine if a PLC is ready to download a new program.
I/O ImageCollectionAdversaries may seek to capture process image values related to the inputs and outputs of a PLC. Within a PLC all input and output states are stored into an I/O image. This image is used by the user program instead of directly interacting with physical I/O.1
Location IdentificationCollectionAdversaries may perform location identification using device data to inform operations and targeted impact for attacks. Location identification data can come in a number of forms, including geographic location, location relative to other control system devices, time zone, and current time. An adversary may use an embedded global positioning system (GPS) module in a device to figure out the physical coordinates of a device. NIST SP800-82 recommends that devices utilize GPS or another location determining mechanism to attach appropriate timestamps to log entries2. While this assists in logging and event tracking, an adversary could use the underlying positioning mechanism to determine the general location of a device. An adversary can also infer the physical location of serially connected devices by using serial connection enumeration. An adversary attempt to attack and cause Impact could potentially affect other control system devices in close proximity. Device local-time and time-zone settings can also provide adversaries a rough indicator of device location, when specific geographic identifiers cannot be determined from the system.
Monitor Process StateCollectionAdversaries may gather information about the physical process state. This information may be used to gain more information about the process itself or used as a trigger for malicious actions. The sources of process state information may vary such as, OPC tags, historian data, specific PLC block information, or network traffic.
Point & Tag IdentificationCollectionAdversaries may collect point and tag values to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the process environment. Points may be values such as inputs, memory locations, outputs or other process specific variables.3 Tags are the identifiers given to points for operator convenience. Collecting such tags provides valuable context to environmental points and enables an adversary to map inputs, outputs, and other values to their control processes. Understanding the points being collected may inform an adversary on which processes and values to keep track of over the course of an operation.
Program UploadCollectionAdversaries may attempt to upload a program from a PLC to gather information about an industrial process. Uploading a program may allow them to acquire and study the underlying logic. Methods of program upload include vendor software, which enables the user to upload and read a program running on a PLC. This software can be used to upload the target program to a workstation, jump box, or an interfacing device.
Role IdentificationCollectionAdversaries may perform role identification of devices involved with physical processes of interest in a target control system. Control systems devices often work in concert to control a physical process. Each device can have one or more roles that it performs within that control process. By collecting this role-based data, an adversary can construct a more targeted attack. For example, a power generation plant may have unique devices such as one that monitors power output of a generator and another that controls the speed of a turbine. Examining devices roles allows the adversary to observe how the two devices work together to monitor and control a physical process. Understanding the role of a target device can inform the adversary's decision on what action to take, in order to cause Impact and influence or disrupt the integrity of operations. Furthermore, an adversary may be able to capture control system protocol traffic. By studying this traffic, the adversary may be able to determine which devices are outstations, and which are masters. Understanding of master devices and their role within control processes can enable the use of Rogue Master Device.
Screen CaptureCollectionAdversaries may attempt to perform screen capture of devices in the control system environment. Screenshots may be taken of workstations, HMIs, or other devices that display environment-relevant process, device, reporting, alarm, or related data. These device displays may reveal information regarding the ICS process, layout, control, and related schematics. In particular, an HMI can provide a lot of important industrial process information.4 Analysis of screen captures may provide the adversary with an understanding of intended operations and interactions between critical devices.