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Lateral Movement

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The adversary is trying to move through your ICS environment.

Lateral Movement consists of techniques that adversaries use to enter and control remote systems on a network. These techniques abuse default credentials, known accounts, and vulnerable services, and may also leverage dual-homed devices and systems that reside on both the IT and OT networks. The adversary uses these techniques to pivot to their next point in the environment, positioning themselves to where they want to be or think they should be. Following through on their primary objective often requires Discovery of the network and Collection to develop awareness of unique ICS devices and processes, in order to find their target and subsequently gain access to it. Reaching this objective often involves pivoting through multiple systems, devices, and accounts. Adversaries may install their own remote tools to accomplish Lateral Movement or leverage default tools, programs, and manufacturer set or other legitimate credentials native to the network, which may be stealthier.

Techniques in this Tactics Category

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

NameTacticsTechnical Description
Default CredentialsLateral MovementAdversaries may leverage manufacturer or supplier set default credentials on control system devices. These default credentials may have administrative permissions and may be necessary for initial configuration of the device. It is general best practice to change the passwords for these accounts as soon as possible, but some manufacturers may have devices that have passwords or usernames that cannot be changed.1 Default credentials are normally documented in an instruction manual that is either packaged with the device, published online through official means, or published online through unofficial means. Adversaries may leverage default credentials that have not been properly modified or disabled.
Exploitation of Remote ServicesLateral Movement
Initial Access
Adversaries may exploit a software vulnerability to take advantage of a programming error in a program, service, or within the operating system software or kernel itself to enable remote service abuse. A common goal for post-compromise exploitation of remote services is for initial access into and lateral movement throughout the ICS environment to enable access to targeted systems.2 ICS asset owners and operators have been affected by ransomware (or disruptive malware masquerading as ransomware) migrating from enterprise IT to ICS environments: WannaCry, NotPetya, and BadRabbit. In each of these cases, self-propagating (“wormable”) malware initially infected IT networks, but through exploit (particularly the SMBv1-targeting MS17-010 vulnerability) spread to industrial networks, producing significant impacts.3
Lateral Tool TransferLateral MovementAdversaries may transfer tools or other files from one system to another to stage adversary tools or other files over the course of an operation.4 Copying of files may also be performed laterally between internal victim systems to support Lateral Movement with remote Execution using inherent file sharing protocols such as file sharing over SMB to connected network shares.4 In control systems environments, malware may use SMB and other file sharing protocols to move laterally through industrial networks.
Program DownloadLateral MovementAdversaries may perform a program download to transfer a user program to a controller.

Variations of program download, such as online edit and program append, allow a controller to continue running during the transfer and reconfiguration process without interruption to process control. However, before starting a full program download (i.e., download all) a controller may need to go into a stop state. This can have negative consequences on the physical process, especially if the controller is not able to fulfill a time-sensitive action. Adversaries may choose to avoid a download all in favor of an online edit or program append to avoid disrupting the physical process. An adversary may need to use the technique Detect Operating Mode or Change Operating Mode to make sure the controller is in the proper mode to accept a program download.

The granularity of control to transfer a user program in whole or parts is dictated by the management protocol (e.g., S7CommPlus, TriStation) and underlying controller API. Thus, program download is a high-level term for the suite of vendor-specific API calls used to configure a controller’s user program memory space.

Modify Controller Tasking and Modify Program represent the configuration changes that are transferred to a controller via a program download.
Remote ServicesLateral Movement
Initial Access
Adversaries may leverage remote services to move between assets and network segments. These services are often used to allow operators to interact with systems remotely within the network, some examples are RDP, SMB, SSH, and other similar mechanisms.563

Remote services could be used to support remote access, data transmission, authentication, name resolution, and other remote functions. Further, remote services may be necessary to allow operators and administrators to configure systems within the network from their engineering or management workstations. An adversary may use this technique to access devices which may be dual-homed5 to multiple network segments, and can be used for Program Download or to execute attacks on control devices directly through Valid Accounts.

Specific remote services (RDP & VNC) may be a precursor to enable Graphical User Interface execution on devices such as HMIs or engineering workstation software.

In the Oldsmar water treatment attack, adversaries gained access to the system through remote access software, allowing for the use of the standard operator HMI interface.7

Based on incident data, CISA and FBI assessed that Chinese state-sponsored actors also compromised various authorized remote access channels, including systems designed to transfer data and/or allow access between corporate and ICS networks. 8
Valid AccountsPersistence
Lateral Movement
Adversaries may steal the credentials of a specific user or service account using credential access techniques. In some cases, default credentials for control system devices may be publicly available. Compromised credentials may be used to bypass access controls placed on various resources on hosts and within the network, and may even be used for persistent access to remote systems. Compromised and default credentials may also grant an adversary increased privilege to specific systems and devices or access to restricted areas of the network. Adversaries may choose not to use malware or tools, in conjunction with the legitimate access those credentials provide, to make it harder to detect their presence or to control devices and send legitimate commands in an unintended way.

Adversaries may also create accounts, sometimes using predefined account names and passwords, to provide a means of backup access for persistence.9

The overlap of credentials and permissions across a network of systems is of concern because the adversary may be able to pivot across accounts and systems to reach a high level of access (i.e., domain or enterprise administrator) and possibly between the enterprise and operational technology environments. Adversaries may be able to leverage valid credentials from one system to gain access to another system.