In response to recent events where unidentified cyber actors obtained unauthorized access to the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system at a U.S. drinking water treatment facility,  the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) have released joint Cybersecurity Advisory AA21-042A: Compromise of U.S. Water Treatment Facility. This advisory outlines how cybercriminals exploit desktop sharing software and end-of-life operating systems to gain unauthorized access to systems.

The FBI, CISA, EPA, and MS-ISAC have observed corrupt insiders and outside cyber actors using desktop sharing software to victimize targets in a range of organizations, including those in the critical infrastructure sectors. In addition to adjusting system operations, cyber actors also use the following techniques:

  • Use access granted by desktop sharing software to perform fraudulent wire transfers.
  • Inject malicious code that allows the cyber actors to
    • Hide desktop sharing software windows,
    • Protect malicious files from being detected, and
    • Control desktop sharing software startup parameters to obfuscate their activity.
  • Move laterally across a network to increase the scope of activity.

TeamViewer, a desktop sharing software, is a legitimate popular tool that has been exploited by cyber actors engaged in targeted social engineering attacks, as well as large scale, indiscriminate phishing campaigns. Desktop sharing software can also be used by employees with vindictive and/or larcenous motivations against employers. "Beyond its legitimate uses, TeamViewer allows cyber actors to exercise remote control over computer systems and drop files onto victim computers, making it functionally similar to Remote Access Trojans (RATs). TeamViewer’s legitimate use, however, makes anomalous activity less suspicious to end users and system administrators compared to RATs," says the advisory.

Windows 7 will become more susceptible to exploitation due to lack of security updates and the discovery of new vulnerabilities, says the advisory. Microsoft and other industry professionals strongly recommend upgrading computer systems to an actively supported operating system. Continuing to use any operating system within an enterprise beyond the end of life status may provide cyber criminals access into computer systems.

To read the cybersecurity advisory, please visit