Hackers can exploit the vulnerabilities affecting Industrial Ethernet Switches and take control over Nuclear Power Plants and other critical infrastructure.
The increasing number of incidents occurred in these years demonstrated that a cyber attack could cause serious damage to industrial processes. It is enough that hackers find and exploit a simple vulnerabilities in one of the components of the targeted process in order to paralyze it with unpredictable consequences.
A recent research has revealed some vulnerabilities in the Industrial Ethernet Switches (IES) which could be exploited by the hackers to gain an access to Nuclear Power Plants or the Hydroelectric Dams.
The Daily Dot newspaper reported that security researchers would present the details of their study on the Industrial Ethernet Switches at the next BlackHat conference in Las Vegas.
The team of researchers conducted a study funded by the IOActive security firm, the work is a joint effort of Robert Lee, a security researcher and active-duty U.S. Air Force Cyber Warfare Operations Officer, risk researcher Eireann Leverett, and IOActive security consultant Colin Cassidy.
The group focused its analysis on the Industrial Ethernet Switches (IES) with the support of at least four industrial switch vendors, including Siemens, General Electric, Opengear, and Garrettcom.
Industrial Ethernet Switches are essential components of industrial processes, they are used to connect the various devices in power plants, hydroelectric dams, refineries, ports, and other critical infrastructure.
The security researchers have proved the presence of numerous vulnerabilities in the Industrial Ethernet Switches, the flaws include the use of default passwords, hard-coded encryption keys and lack of proper authentication for firmware updates.
The hole highlighted by the team of researchers together expose critical systems to serious threat and represent the “fundamental failures of security.” “Anything that the facility is capable of in its natural operating system, you’re [an attacker] capable of doing—and doing damage with if you control the network,” Robert Lee told the Daily Dot. “With a power station, you can have major repercussions. With a hydroelectric dam, if you don’t monitor processes in a normal situation, it’ll spin out of control. Everything you have can be manipulated.”
The researchers highlighted the lack of awareness on the cyber threats and of a proper security posture demonstrated by the presence of outdated technology.
Outdated systems don’t allow operators for implementing reliable maintenance processes based on the distribution of validated and legitimate firmware updates.
“All these vulnerabilities are pervasive and endemic. Most vendors haven’t done the basics.” Mainly so because the equipment used in the facilities are all outdated because they were installed during the time when cyber-security had not advanced, on the contrary the threats posed today were not present in the list of cyber security. explained Leverett.
The only way to prevent further attacks is to share information on cyber threats and assess computer systems searching for vulnerabilities exploitable by threat actors.
Pierluigi Paganini is member of the ENISA (European Union Agency for Network and Information Security) Threat Landscape Stakeholder Group and Cyber G7 Group, he is also a Security Evangelist, Security Analyst and Freelance Writer.
Editor-in-Chief at "Cyber Defense Magazine", Pierluigi is a cyber security expert with over 20 years experience in the field, he is Certified Ethical Hacker at EC Council in London. The passion for writing and a strong belief that security is founded on sharing and awareness led Pierluigi to find the security blog "Security Affairs" recently named a Top National Security Resource for US.
Pierluigi is a member of the "The Hacker News" team and he is a writer for some major publications in the field such as Cyber War Zone, ICTTF, Infosec Island, Infosec Institute, The Hacker News Magazine and for many other Security magazines.
Author of the Books "The Deep Dark Web" and “Digital Virtual Currency and Bitcoin”.