01:34 PM

Utilities Facing Brute-Force Attack Threat

SSH attack warning from ICS-CERT just the latest in a series of high-profile vulnerabilities affecting critical infrastructure of power plants, hospitals, even prisons.

10 Massive Security Breaches
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: 10 Massive Security Breaches
Another day, another SCADA threat: ICS-CERT is now warning utilities and other critical infrastructure providers about potential brute-force attacks against control systems with SSH command-line access.

For an industry that traditionally has been cloistered and unaccustomed to cybersecurity threats to its systems, it has been a rough few months, with several security researchers exposing and poking some serious holes in the products that run in power plants, manufacturing floors, hospitals, and even prisons. Most recently, Metasploit late last month added a new exploit to the Metasploit Framework for an attack demonstrated by Digital Bond against the GE D20 PLC device. Other SCADA product exploits by the Digital Bound researchers are also in the works for Metasploit, including ones for Rockwell Automation, Schneider Modicon, and Koyo/Direct LOGIC. Last summer, researcher Dillon Beresford demonstrated a backdoor in Siemens S7-300, S7-400, and S7-1200 devices that allowed him to get inside and capture passwords and reprogram PLC logic in such a way that he could shut down the systems altogether or cause them to eventually crash.

ICS-CERT reported on Friday that many organizations have been witnessing secure shell (SSH) scans of their Internet-facing control systems, including an electric utility that told ICS-CERT it had been hit by some brute force attempts against its networks that were "unsuccessful." The attackers are probing Port 22/TCP, the default SSL listening port, to look for SSH. Once they get a response from the probe, they can execute a brute-force attack for login credentials in order to acquire remote access.

It's an attractive attack vector because many control-system devices on networks run SSH by default. ICS-CERT recommends monitoring network logs for port scans and access attempts. "Hundreds or thousands of login attempts over a relatively short time period is an indicator of a brute force attack because systems running SSH normally do not receive high volumes of login attempts," the ICS-CERT alert says. "However, indication of an attack does not necessarily mean that the organization is the actual intended target. Scans are frequently executed against a wide range of IP addresses looking for any system meeting the attacker’s criteria (in this case, systems running SSH)."

This is just the latest in a string of painfully simple hacks to which critical infrastructure providers are vulnerable. Researchers Billy Rios and Terry McCorkle during the past year have been reporting bugs they find in industrial control systems products: They've found more than 1,000, of which 98 are easily exploitable. Among the most obvious bugs they found were via human management interface (HMI) applications that were accessible via the Internet, as well as file format and ActiveX flaws.

Read the rest of this article on Dark Reading.

Heightened concern that users could inadvertently expose or leak--or purposely steal--an organization's sensitive data has spurred debate over the proper technology and training to protect the crown jewels. An Insider Threat Reality Check, a special retrospective of recent news coverage, takes a look at how organizations are handling the threat--and what users are really up to. (Free registration required.)

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
E-Commerce Security: What Every Enterprise Needs to Know
The mainstream use of EMV smartcards in the US has experts predicting an increase in online fraud. Organizations will need to look at new tools and processes for building better breach detection and response capabilities.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
Published: 2015-10-15
The Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) subsystem in the Linux kernel through 4.x mishandles requests for Graphics Execution Manager (GEM) objects, which allows context-dependent attackers to cause a denial of service (memory consumption) via an application that processes graphics data, as demonstrated b...

Published: 2015-10-15
netstat in IBM AIX 5.3, 6.1, and 7.1 and VIOS 2.2.x, when a fibre channel adapter is used, allows local users to gain privileges via unspecified vectors.

Published: 2015-10-15
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in eXtplorer before 2.1.8 allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of arbitrary users for requests that execute PHP code.

Published: 2015-10-15
Directory traversal vulnerability in QNAP QTS before 4.1.4 build 0910 and 4.2.x before 4.2.0 RC2 build 0910, when AFP is enabled, allows remote attackers to read or write to arbitrary files by leveraging access to an OS X (1) user or (2) guest account.

Published: 2015-10-15
Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) 1.1j allows local users to gain privileges via vectors involving addition of an SSH key, aka Bug ID CSCuw46076.

Dark Reading Radio