Amid a rush to guard the grid, Raytheon Cybersecurity finds allies in innovation with Virsec

With energy grids under constant threat of cyberattack, Raytheon is getting the technology of small, innovative software firms into the hands of big international customers.

The malware that blacked out parts of Kiev, Ukraine, was a ticking time bomb.

It slipped inside the networks of electrical substations through a flaw in an obscure device. It built back doors to other parts of those networks and waited. Then, at a time chosen by its programmers and written into its code, it was destroyed. It commandeered circuit breakers, shut down relays, and hobbled the control software.

The malware, known as both CrashOverride and Industroyer, showed how hackers not only understand the arcane networks of the energy industry, but are using that knowledge to carry out devastating cyber offensives. It also showed how urgently the keepers of critical infrastructure need to shore up their defenses.

To speed that along, Raytheon is working with smaller companies like Silicon Valley cybersecurity firm Virsec to license network-saving technology to government agencies and large enterprises including healthcare companies, financial institutions and utility providers. That partnership is among several that answer a call in the U.S. National Defense Strategy for the defense industry to deliver new technologies faster. The others include:

  • An agreement with MetTel to modernize and protect telecommunications infrastructure;
  • A partnership with Cybraics, an advanced analytics and artificial intelligence company, to detect cyber threats and anomalies that could indicate an attack is underway;
  • A partnership with Authentic8, the creators of a cloud browser called Silo that executes web code in a secure, remote environment

For the smaller companies, working with Raytheon accelerates the long, difficult acquisition process smaller companies often encounter when breaking into the federal and international markets.

Raytheon Cybersecurity Partners

“Raytheon is clearly adept at changing that paradigm and bringing newer technologies and solution sets more quickly to its customer base,” said Ray DeMeo, co-founder and chief operating officer of Virsec. "Without partners like Raytheon, the U.S. government would not be able to access essential and immediately needed technology. This is important to all of us as U.S. citizens, and our allies, the ability to readily adapt our posture. It really is a day-to-day battle."

At the heart of the Raytheon-Virsec agreement is a defense against “memory-based” cyberattacks, or those that exploit weaknesses in legitimate applications, rather than installing malware. Well-known examples include the WannaCry and NotPetya ransomware attacks. They exploited the network protocol Server Message Block, which allows computers on a network to access shared resources such as printers.

Securing Against Memory-based Attacks

Virsec calls its defense against memory-based attacks “Trusted Execution,” and it basically works like this: It learns what applications should and shouldn’t do at the memory level, and when it sees a malicious execution within an application, it sends an alert that enables security to shut down the rogue function immediately.

The technology could fill a critical need, said John DeSimone, vice president of cybersecurity and special missions at Raytheon.

"Commercial tools from companies like Virsec can help bridge the gap for our global government and commercial customers and provide effective protection against the growing cyber threat," he said.

Further Resources:

Case Study: Raytheon and Virsec Partner to Guard the Grid

Raytheon, Virsec Establish Alliance to Protect Government and Critical Infrastructure from Advanced Cyberattacks


Guest blog from our partner, Raytheon.