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1/13/2011
04:45 PM
John H. Sawyer
John H. Sawyer
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Security Researcher Targets SCADA, Releases Exploit

Another exploit for SCADA software emphasizes the need for organizations to review their network design and device exposure before they become a victim.

The year has opened up with a bang, with security researcher Dillon Beresford taking the latest shot at supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. Sunday night, Dillon contacted me about a new exploit he'd just published for a Chinese SCADA software called KingView. After sending e-mails to the vendor and CN-CERT with no response after three months, he released the exploit in hopes it would jump-start the company into action and realize the need to patch the serious flaw.

Dillon's recent exploit for KingView is just part of a disturbing trend during the past year in which we've seen more exploits for and focus on exploiting SCADA systems. SCADA systems are basically networked devices and software that do things like control water and gas levels in factories or cities, as well as the positioning flood gates in dams -- all things you'd want to keep as secure as possible and never allow directly on the Internet where a malicious attacker might find it, right?

Well, unfortunately, as we've seen with the buzz created by SHODAN and the resulting ICS-CERT bulletin (PDF) released in late October, these systems are being placed directly on the Internet and are being found with ease. At least it's comforting to know they are heavily secured and not exploitable in any way...

Sadly, that's not true, either, which I found in August when I was researching VxWorks vulnerabilities presented by HD Moore at B-Sides in Las Vegas; Dillon also assisted with by verifying HD 's research. Just by leveraging SHODAN, I was able to find large numbers of SCADA devices that run VxWorks sitting right on the Internet waiting to have their memory dumped, password cracked, or be rebooted using tools within the Metasploit Framework -- scary stuff.

Now, not even a month into 2011, we've seen the release of an exploit for what has been called "the most widely trusted and used supervisory control and data acquisition applications in China." The fact that it is popular is unsettling; I'm sure there have already been large scans of Chinese IP space looking for the vulnerable software listening on TCP port 777. Will we see a worm to follow and rolling blackouts in China?

While I tend to be optimistic and would really like to see this be the wake-up call necessary to get SCADA systems off of the Internet, properly secured, and vendors start making their products more secure, I'm just not sure it's going to happen. Maybe it will take a worm and blackouts to do it. Maybe government regulation. It's hard to say what exactly, but the reality is more SCADA software and hardware will be in the crosshairs of security researchers like Dillon. At least in this case, the tactic worked.

Oh, yeah. I almost forgot -- Dillon said he has more in the works, including a working Metasploit module to exploit the KingView vulnerability. If you're responsible for SCADA, then it's time to batten down the hatches. A storm is brewing.

John Sawyer is a Senior Security Analyst with InGuardians. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are his own and do not represent the views and opinions of his employer. He can be reached at johnhsawyer@gmail.com

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