The hacking threat to critical infrastructure in the United States and beyond is growing larger, with nation states and other malicious actors looking to gain a foothold in sensitive technologies to conduct espionage and potentially stage disruptive or destructive attacks.

Dragos, a firm that specializes in industrial cybersecurity, has released new research asserting that a hacker group responsible for deploying highly sophisticated, destructive malware to an industrial plant in the Middle East last year has begun to expand its operations beyond its initial targets.

“This is no longer about data theft or business disruption. Someone can get hurt. It’s about physical consequences,” said Dan Scali, senior manager for FireEye’s industrial control system security consulting practice.

Last week, researchers at Dragos released new details about a threat group they call “Xenotime.” They said the group has developed hacking tools to compromise and disrupt industrial safety instrumented systems — hardware and software controls that are used to ensure the safe operations of large-scale nuclear, chemical and other industrial plants and allow for emergency stops to take place.

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