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Iranian, Syrian Hackers Hit 'Gas Gauges'

Honeypots posing as gas gauge monitoring systems located in 7 nations hit with DDoS attacks, defacements, and queries from attackers.

BLACK HAT USA -- Las Vegas -- Researchers who planted honeypots posing as gas gauge monitoring systems in the US, Brazil, United Kingdom, Germany, Jordan, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates, say their phony systems were DDoS'ed, defaced, and queried for information by infamous hacktivist groups from Iran and Syria.

Trend Micro researchers Kyle Wilhoit and Stephen Hilt, here today revealed how their honeypot version of a Vedeer-Root Guardian AST gas gauge monitoring system apparently fooled a group claiming to be the Syrian Electronic Army hacking group, as well the Iranian Dark Coders hacking team.  

Overall, the 18 attacks on the gas gauges included four modifications to the phony pumps, two DDoS attacks, and 12 pump queries looking for information about the tanks.

Wilhoit and Hilt also officially released their Gaspot honeypot tool, which allows researchers as well as gas tank operators to set up their own virtual monitoring systems to track attack attempts and threats.

The DDoS attackers appeared to be the SEA, according to the researchers, given their IP address locations and their use of the LOIC DDoS tool. The Syrian hackers aimed its 2Gbps DDoS power at a Gaspot located in Washington, DC. "We were able to correlate by looking at the IP addresses they were using," Wilhoit says, in addition to a "SEA" reference in the GET string used by the attackers.

Even so, he admits that it could possibly be another group posing as SEA.

The pro-Iranian regime hacktivists Iranian Dark Coders, aka IDC, modified the names of two pumps situated in Jordan. The IDC, which is best known for defacements and malware distribution, renamed two different tank names in the systems, one  "H4CK3D by IDC-TEAM," and the other "AHAAD Was Here."

Wilhoit says all of the IPs involved were out of Iran, and the fact that they went after the honeypots in Jordan was "damn interesting." "It's interesting from a political standpoint," he says. "There's a decent case that this is more than likely IDC."

Even so, the attacks he and Hilt watched on the honeypots were fairly "tame," Wilhoit says. "From my standpoint, it was more interesting from a geopolitical standpoint, seeing Iranian IPs attacking" the honeypot in Jordan.

A worse scenario would be if an attacker were to alter information on the amount of petroleum in a pump, for instance, and cause a supply chain disruption, he says.

"You can't overflow a tank and spill gas with these" hacks, Hilt notes. "They are truly monitoring. But you can start changing the volume of the tank … It could run out of gas, but you could make it look like it's full."

A DDoS could hamper distribution and inventory, for instance.

Gaspot was configured to appear realistic, each looking a bit different and using local IP addresses for the locations where it was stationed, for example. Half were searchable via Shodan, and the other half were not.

The Guardian AST systems the honeypots mimicked are Internet-connected and don't employ PINS, Wilhoit says. "They are deployed in a very insecure fashion. But there are some products that Vedeer-Root has that support a very small PIN code," but it's just a 4-digit, all-numeric PIN, he says.

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