Feeds

SCADA industry debates flaw disclosure

Vendors and researchers face off

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

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.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
'Kim Kardashian snaps naked selfies with a BLACKBERRY'. *Twitterati gasps*
More alleged private, nude celeb pics appear online
Home Depot ignored staff warnings of security fail laundry list
'Just use cash', former security staffer warns friends
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Snowden, Dotcom, throw bombs into NZ election campaign
Claim of tapped undersea cable refuted by Kiwi PM as Kim claims extradition plot
Freenode IRC users told to change passwords after securo-breach
Miscreants probably got in, you guys know the drill by now
THREE QUARTERS of Android mobes open to web page spy bug
Metasploit module gobbles KitKat SOP slop
BitTorrent's peer-to-peer chat app Bleep goes live as public alpha
A good day for privacy as invisble.im also reveals its approach to untraceable chats
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
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?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.