Cranes, drills and other industrial machines exposed to hack by RF protocols

Pierluigi Paganini January 15, 2019

Researchers from Trend Micro have analyzed the communication protocols used by cranes and other industrial machines and discovered several flaws.

Security experts from Trend Micro have discovered several vulnerabilities in the communication protocols used by cranes, hoists, drills and other industrial machines.

The experts found vulnerabilities in products from several vendors, including Saga, Juuko, Telecrane, Hetronic, Circuit Design, Autec, and Elca.

The flaw could be exploited by remote attackers to carry out cyber attacks.

Machines used in transportation, manufacturing, construction, and mining sectors often use radio frequency (RF) protocols. RF controllers are composed of a transmitter and a receiver that communicates via radio waves.

Trend Micro researchers analyzed RF controllers in lab environment and in the real scenarios demonstrating the presence of the flaws and the associated risks.

The experts tested 14 devices across the world, and all of them were vulnerable to one of the attacks conducted by the experts.

The five types of attacks tested by the experts are:

  • Replay attacks – Attackers captures a valid transmission and fraudulently repeat or delayed it.
  • Command injection attacks – Attackers can arbitrarily and selectively modify RF packets to completely control the machine
  • “emergency stop” attacks – Attackers can replay e-stop (emergency stop) commands indefinitely to cause a persistent denial-of-service (DoS) condition.
  • Malicious re-pairing attacks – Attackers clone a remote controller to hijack a legitimate one.
  • Malicious reprogramming – The attacker is able to run tainted firmware on the remote controllers to obtain persistent, full remote control.

Below two PoC videos published by Trend Micro experts.

Trend Micro reported the issues to the affected vendors, the ICS-CERT published two security advisories for Hetronic and Telecrane devices.

Most of the flaws discovered by the experts are related to unprotected communications between the transmitter and the receiver, an attacker could exploit the issues to capture traffic and spoof commands.

“Our research reveals that RF remote controllers are distributed globally, and millions of vulnerable units are installed on heavy industrial machinery and environments. Our extensive in-lab and on-site analysis of devices made by seven popular vendors reveals a lack of security features at different levels, with obscure, proprietary protocols instead of standard ones.” reads the report.

“They are vulnerable to command spoofing, so an attacker can selectively alter their behavior by crafting arbitrary commands — with consequences ranging from theft and extortion to sabotage and injury “

The experts demonstrated how to carry out the attacks remotely by using a small, battery-powered device planted in range of the targeted machine.

“Our research shows that there is a discrepancy between the consumer and industrial worlds. In the consumer world, the perceived risks have pushed the vendors to find reasonably secure, albeit imperfect, solutions such as rolling codes.” reads the report. “In the industrial world, where the assets at risk are much more valuable than a fancy house or car, there seems to be less awareness.”

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – RF protocols, hacking)

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