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.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

7/19/2012
12:49 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Smart Grid Researcher Releases Open Source Meter-Hacking Tool

'Termineter' unleashed prior to presentations on smart meter security next week at BSides, Black Hat USA

A smart grid researcher today released a free open-source hacking tool to test the security of smart meters. But this is a different researcher than the one who pulled his talk and public release of a similar tool earlier this year amid concerns by a smart grid vendor.

Click here for more of Dark Reading's Black Hat articles.

Spencer McIntyre, a member of SecureState's Research & Innovation Team, says his company basically lucked out and wasn't pressured by vendors worried about the release today of his so-called Termineter tool, which he will demonstrate next week at the BSides conference in Las Vegas. "We got really lucky, I guess. We worked with power and utility vendors," he says. "The [utility] client we worked with has been working with us to release this tool."

InGuardians initially wasn't so lucky. Researcher Don Weber was supposed to release his firm's tool earlier this year at the ShmooCon conference, but had to put the talk and tool on hold after a vendor came forward with concerns. The company ended up providing the tool to smart grid vendors and utilities -- just not publicly, says Jimmy Alderson, chief operating officer of InGuardians.

"We did not feel it was right to make our tool publicly available," Alderson says. "It's modified open source, so you can add to it, but at the same time it's not widely open to an attacker."

Don Weber, a senior security analyst with InGuardians, is scheduled to demonstrate the tool at Black Hat USA in Las Vegas next week. The tool, like Termineter, tests for both vulnerabilities and functionality in smart grid meters via the devices' infrared ports. The so-called OptiGuard is a Python-based tool that demonstrates the way infrared ports on a smart meter can be penetrated, looking for vulnerabilities and executing attacks. InGuardians looks for vulnerabilities in these devices, including weak passwords that could lead to meter fraud and taking control of a meter.

How does OptiGuard differ from SecureState's Termineter? SecureState uses more of a Metasploit Framework user interface, notes Alderson, whereas InGuardians' has its own user interface. Plus Termineter is open source, and OptiGuard is not.

[ Itron, which sells smart meters, data collection, and software solutions to around 8,000 utilities in more than 130 countries and regions worldwide, has made SDL mandatory in all hardware and software development. See SCADA/Smart-Grid Vendor Adopts Microsoft's Secure Software Development Program. ]

Overall, the two tools do similar things: They require that the user physically access the meter, using a serial port connection that interacts with the optical infrared interface. Both are based on Python and aimed at helping security auditors to test the vulnerability of smart meters.

"Our tool is framework-extensible by the community: It's completely open source ... and you can use it for whatever purposes you will to facilitate auditing of smart meters," SecureState's McIntyre says. The idea is to provide utilities with the tools to check the risks and vulnerabilities with the smart meter equipment they provide their customers, according to McIntyre.

Authentication issues such as weak passwords and weak access controls in these devices are top of mind for power company concerns, he says. "Being able to write and read from a meter while being authenticated as an underprivileged user or to not have to authenticate at all," he says. "That could be used for fraud, which is a large concern for power companies."

While SecureState's tool is available to anyone via download, InGuardians has no plans to do the same with its tool. "Our tool is aimed at people inside the industry," including SecureState, Alderson says. "We have had a lot of vendors on board who helped us build out the tool."

Alderson says the smart grid has reached a level of maturity where these tools can help check for weaknesses. "Our tool [also] helps ... simulate what an attack looks like so they can [detect] it and write rules" to mitigate it, he says. "A lot of vendors have now started to build this into their monitoring software because utilities are asking for it."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

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
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/3/2020
Pen Testers Who Got Arrested Doing Their Jobs Tell All
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  8/5/2020
New 'Nanodegree' Program Provides Hands-On Cybersecurity Training
Nicole Ferraro, Contributing Writer,  8/3/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
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
CVE-2020-15058
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-07
Lindy 42633 4-Port USB 2.0 Gigabit Network Server 2.078.000 devices allow an attacker on the same network to elevate privileges because the administrative password can be discovered by sniffing unencrypted UDP traffic.
CVE-2020-15059
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-07
Lindy 42633 4-Port USB 2.0 Gigabit Network Server 2.078.000 devices allow an attacker on the same network to bypass authentication via a web-administration request that lacks a password parameter.
CVE-2020-15060
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-07
Lindy 42633 4-Port USB 2.0 Gigabit Network Server 2.078.000 devices allow an attacker on the same network to conduct persistent XSS attacks by leveraging administrative privileges to set a crafted server name.
CVE-2020-15061
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-07
Lindy 42633 4-Port USB 2.0 Gigabit Network Server 2.078.000 devices allow an attacker on the same network to denial-of-service the device via long input values.
CVE-2020-15062
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-07
DIGITUS DA-70254 4-Port Gigabit Network Hub 2.073.000.E0008 devices allow an attacker on the same network to elevate privileges because the administrative password can be discovered by sniffing unencrypted UDP traffic.