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Ransomware Mitigation Strategies for Industrial Control Systems (ICS)

Sharon Marusich | 4 min read| Updated On - July 11, 2023

Industrial Control Systems

Industrial control systems (ICS) are computer-based systems that monitor and control industrial processes, such as manufacturing and power generation. These systems are critical to the functioning of various industries and infrastructure, and their disruption can have significant economic, safety, and security impacts.

ICS are increasingly becoming a target for ransomware groups because of their importance to critical infrastructure. A successful ransomware attack on these systems can result in significant disruption, financial loss, and even physical harm. In addition, many ICS were not designed with security in mind, making them vulnerable to attack. Ransomware groups target ICS in various ways, including exploiting software vulnerabilities, using spear-phishing tactics, and carrying out supply chain attacks. As a result, organizations that rely on ICS need to implement robust security measures to protect their systems from ransomware attacks.

Real-World Examples of ICS Ransomware Attacks

Examples of ransomware attacks that targeted ICS in the real world include the 2021 Colonial Pipeline attack, which caused fuel shortages and financial losses; the 2019 attack on Norwegian aluminum manufacturer Norsk Hydro, resulting in production facility shutdowns and millions of dollars in damage; and the global 2017 WannaCry campaign, causing massive disruptions and billions of dollars in losses for various organizations, including manufacturing and healthcare facilities.

How Can We Protect ICS from Ransomware Attacks?

There are many well-documented ransomware mitigation strategies, such as educating employees, taking secure backups, installing updates, using MFA, disabling macros in email attachments, and many more. However, since this article specifically relates to ransomware attacks on industrial control systems, I will omit these strategies and focus on areas such as microsegmentation and the importance of vulnerability assessments.


Microsegmentation can help prevent ransomware attacks on ICS by isolating critical infrastructure, preventing intrusion and minimizing exposure in the event of an attack. In this way, if an attacker were to breach one part of the network, the entire system would not be compromised. Furthermore, microsegmentation can prevent the propagation of malware and ransomware by limiting the communication between different segments of the network. By selectively applying network policies based on specific traffic types and limiting access to only authorized users and devices, microsegmentation can protect ICS from various types of cyber-attacks and greatly reduce the impact of any potential breaches.

Vulnerability assessments

Vulnerability assessments can help prevent ICS ransomware attacks by identifying weaknesses in the system before they can be exploited by attackers. This can also help organizations prioritize security measures and allocate resources effectively, as well as improve their overall security posture. The tools and methods used for evaluating vulnerabilities in ICS include;

Network scanning: This allows organizations to identify potential security weaknesses by detecting devices, services, and open ports within the ICS environment.

Penetration testing: This involves simulating cyberattacks to assess the effectiveness of security measures and test incident response procedures.

Automated vulnerability management solutions: These solutions continually monitor the ICS environment for vulnerabilities, enabling efficient detection and remediation of issues while reducing the risk of human error and freeing up resources for other security tasks.

In order to minimize the likelihood of a supply chain attack, you will also need to conduct regular vulnerability assessments of all third-party vendors to ensure they have adequate security controls in place.

How Lepide Helps Protect Against Ransomware

The Lepide Data Security Platform will give you the visibility your need to quickly detect and respond to ransomware attacks. The ‘threshold alerting’ feature allows you to specify threshold conditions, which, when met, will trigger both an alert and an automated response to prevent the attack from spreading. For example, if X number of files are encrypted or renamed within a given time-frame, a custom script can be executed which may stop a specific process, disable a user account, change the firewall settings, or simply shut down the effected systems. You can receive notifications, in real-time, anytime important changes are made to your critical files, folders and security settings. Via an intuitive dashboard, you can review access permissions, in order to identify who has access to what resources, and whether they actually need access to those resources.

If you’d like to see how the Lepide Data Security Platform can help you protect against ransomware attacks, schedule a demo with one of our engineers or start your free trial today.

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