Feeds

SCADA industry debates flaw disclosure

Vendors and researchers face off

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

The outing of a simple crash bug has caused public soul-searching in an industry that has historically been closed-mouthed about its vulnerabilities.

The flaw, in a particular vendor's implementation of the Inter-Control Centre Communications Protocol (ICCP), could have allowed an attacker the ability to crash a server.

Yet, unlike corporate servers that handle groupware applications or websites, the vulnerable server software - from process-control application maker LiveData - monitors and controls real-time devices in electric power utilities and healthcare settings. The best known types of devices are supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) devices and distributed control system (DCS) devices.

A crash becomes a more serious event in those applications, said Dale Peterson, CEO of Digital Bond, the infrastructure security firm that found the flaw.

"These are what you would consider, in the IT world, critical enterprise applications. But the companies don't act like these are critical enterprise applications."

LiveData maintains that the flaw is a software bug, not a security vulnerability, pointing out that it only affects how the LiveData ICCP Server handles a non-secure implementation of the communications protocol - typically used only in environments not connected to a public network.

"In general, SCADA networks are run as very private networks," LiveData CEO Jeff Robbins said. "You cannot harness an army of public zombie servers and attack them, because they are not accessible."

The incident has touched off a heated debate among a small collection of vulnerability researchers, critical infrastructure security experts and the typically staid real-time process control systems industry. The controversy mirrors the long-standing dispute between independent researchers and software vendors over disclosing vulnerabilities in enterprise and consumer applications.

In that industry, researchers have taken Apple, Oracle, Cisco and Microsoft to task at various times over the last year for the perception that the companies were not responding adequately to reports of flaws in their software products.

Last week, at the Process Control System Forum (PCSF), a conference on infrastructure management systems funded by the US Department of Homeland Security, a similar debate played itself out. Perhaps three dozen industry representatives and security researchers met during a breakout session to hash out the issues involving disclosure. The tone became, at times, contentious, said Matt Franz, the moderator at conference panel on the topic and a SCADA security researcher with Digital Bond.

"The vendors were sticking together saying that (researchers) didn't need to be involved with SCADA flaws," he said. "'It puts people and infrastructure in danger,' they said."

Moreover, many vendors did not appreciate the involvement of the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), the nation's response group tasked with managing the process of vulnerability remediation for critical infrastructure, Franz said.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
One HUNDRED FAMOUS LADIES exposed NUDE online
Celebrity women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped
Rubbish WPS config sees WiFi router keys popped in seconds
Another day, another way in to your home router
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NZ Justice Minister scalped as hacker leaks emails
Grab your popcorn: Subterfuge and slur disrupts election run up
HP: NORKS' cyber spying efforts actually a credible cyberthreat
'Sophisticated' spies, DIY tech and a TROLL ARMY – report
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?