Feeds

Stuxnet-style SCADA attack kept quiet after US gov tests

'Industrial grade malware without nation state backing'

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

Security researchers decided to cancel a planned demonstration of security holes in industrial control systems from Siemens following requests from the German manufacturer and a security response team.

Dillon Beresford, a security analyst at NSS Labs, and independent security researcher Brian Meixell were due to make a presentation – entitled Chain Reactions–Hacking SCADA – at the TakeDown Conference in Dallas on Wednesday.

They shared their research beforehand with Siemens, ICS-CERT (Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team – a division of the Department of Homeland Security), and the Idaho National Lab. Siemens asked the two researchers to hold fire on the talk, which covered possible mechanisms to attack industrial control systems along with a practical demonstration.

Beresford and Meixell agreed to delay their presentation. "We were asked very nicely if we could refrain from providing that information at this time," Beresford told CNET. "I decided on my own that it would be in the best interest of security to not release the information."

Later, speaking to Wired, Beresford added that the "DHS in no way tried to censor the presentation". Beresford said that he had found multiple vulnerabilities in the SCADA systems he tested, without saying what these bugs might be. At least one of the security flaws may affect multiple vendors.

NSS Labs stressed that no legal pressure had been placed on Beresford to cancel the talk, which he postponed because the proposed mitigation techniques suggested by Siemens were insufficient to deal with threats the talk would have highlighted.

A synopsis of the cancelled talk explains:

SCADA exploits have recently taken center stage in the international community. These types of vulnerabilities pose significant threats to critical infrastructure. Combining traditional exploits with industrial control systems allows attackers to weaponize malicious code, as demonstrated with Stuxnet. The attacks against Iran’s nuclear facilities were started by a sequence of events that delayed the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

We will demonstrate how motivated attackers could penetrate even the most heavily fortified facilities in the world, without the backing of a nation state. We will also present how to write industrial grade malware without having direct access to the target hardware. After all, if physical access was required, what would be the point of hacking into an industrial control system?

Security shortcomings in the Programmable Logic Controllers within SCADA systems from Siemens were the target of the infamous Stuxnet worm, which Iranian authorities have admitted infiltrated its nuclear facilities and sabotaged systems. SCADA systems control everything from valves on oil and gas pipeline to energy grids, heat sensors in power plants and bottle washers in beverage manufacturing factories.

In a blog post explaining the decision to postpone the SCADA security talk, NSS Labs explained that "significant additional vulnerabilities in industrial control systems have been identified, responsibly disclosed and validated by affected parties".

It added: "Due to the serious physical, financial impact these issues could have on a worldwide basis, further details will be made available at the appropriate time. Legitimate owners/operators of leading SCADA PLCs may contact us for further information." ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Black Hat anti-Tor talk smashed by lawyers' wrecking ball
Unmasking hidden users is too hot for Carnegie-Mellon
Attackers raid SWISS BANKS with DNS and malware bombs
'Retefe' trojan uses clever spin on old attacks to grant total control of bank accounts
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
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.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.