Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


01:20 PM
Connect Directly

ICS Mess: US Industrial Systems The Most Exposed

New data shows vulnerable ICS equipment even as vendors are improving security.

Hundreds of thousands of industrial control systems (ICS) worldwide are available on the public Internet via a Shodan search, nearly 60,000 of them in the US, according to a new report published yesterday.

Kaspersky Lab’s report says the around 221,000 exposed ICS devices run on some 188,019 host systems from 133 different vendors across 170 countries, with Tridium (11.1%), Sierra Wireless (8.1%), and Beck IPC (6.7%) as the biggest offenders. The security vendor also compiled data on ICS vulnerabilities that have been reported publicly and found that 189 were reported in 2015, up slightly from 2014, with about half in the critical category and 42% in the medium-severity category. Most of the vulns were in Siemens, Schneider Electric, and Hospira products.

Exploits are available for some 26 of the reported bugs overall; exploits are not necessarily needed to attack many of the devices that were found with default credentials. The nature of the flaws reflect the relative immaturity of secure coding of these systems: 9% are buffer overflows; 7% hard-coded credentials; and 7% cross-site scripting.

But despite the ominous data, the reality is that major ICS/SCADA vendors are actually finally stepping up their security game. Vendors like Siemens issue security updates regularly; whether ICS operators apply those patches, however, depends on whether the risk of an attack via the vulnerable software is higher than the risk of potentially disrupting a plant’s operations.

Kaspersky Lab’s Sergey Gordeychik, who co-authored the Kaspersky report and is a former independent ICS/SCADA researcher, says large ICS vendors such as ABB, GE, Honeywell, and Siemens, now have mature vulnerability management processes in place, as well as secure development lifecycle programs.

Some ICS vendors are starting to employ “'secure by default' configuration,” he says. The new SMA Sunny Solar Webbox for data logging and control of alternative energy systems, for example, doesn’t allow connections from the Internet, he says.

Some 85% of the published flaws have fixes available, with the rest either unpatched or only partially fixed, Kaspersky Lab says. The Sunny Webbox systems found in the Shodan search reflect the lack of patching by ICS operators/owners, the researchers say.

Dale Peterson, president of Digital Bond, an ICS/SCADA consultancy, says the number of ICS bugs that are disclosed publicly doesn’t really reflect the state of ICS product security: it’s the result of just what researchers are testing.

“The number of ICS vulnerabilities publicly disclosed are only a reflection of researcher interest in the issue and the availability of the software/hardware for their testing. It has no reflection of the security state of the ICS software and firmware,” Peterson says.

The total number of ICS vulns could triple within a year, he says, if a few researchers invested the time and money into purchasing and testing more equipment. ICS products today are chock-full of basic and typically exploitable bugs, he notes.

“Look at the numbers another way: the number of vulnerabilities has been flat since 2012. Many researchers have become bored looking at the poor code quality. Others choose to no longer report what they find. The only other data that would be interesting to pull and analyze from the disclosures is related to the researchers. Look at how people move in and out of this field, what countries they come from, etc.,” he says. “My guess is you will find a new person comes in, reports some bugs for about 18 months, and then moves on.”

Meanwhile, Kaspersky’s Gordeychik says the Shodan findings of big names in electricity, aerospace, airports, oil and gas, metallurgy, chemical, automotive, drinks and food, and smart cities, all exposed on the Net was a bit “scary.”

“As usual, we shared this information with the owners/CERTs and hope this will help them to improve security,” he says.

Related Content:


Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
User Rank: Apprentice
7/13/2016 | 1:15:49 AM
To boldly go..
This area is the hackers new frontier... Time to develop thoughtful contingency plans both micro and macro.
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/10/2020
Researcher Finds New Office Macro Attacks for MacOS
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  8/7/2020
Exploiting Google Cloud Platform With Ease
Dark Reading Staff 8/6/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: They said you could use Zoom anywhere.......
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
A timeout during a TLS handshake can result in the connection failing to terminate. This can result in a Niagara thread hanging and requires a manual restart of Niagara (Versions,,, and Niagara Enterprise Security (Versions 2.4.31, 2.4.45, to corr...
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
An issue was discovered on Spirent TestCenter and Avalanche appliance admin interface firmware. An attacker, who already has access to an SSH restricted shell, can achieve root access via shell metacharacters. The attacker can then, for example, read sensitive files such as appliance admin configura...
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
For GitLab before 13.0.12, 13.1.6, 13.2.3 a denial of service exists in the project import feature
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
For GitLab before 13.0.12, 13.1.6, 13.2.3 user controlled git configuration settings can be modified to result in Server Side Request Forgery.
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-13
A SQL injection vulnerability at a tpf URI in Loway QueueMetrics before 19.10.21 allows remote authenticated attackers to execute arbitrary SQL commands via the TPF_XPAR1 parameter.