Feeds

Stuxnet-style SCADA attack kept quiet after US gov tests

'Industrial grade malware without nation state backing'

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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." ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Webcam hacker pervs in MASS HOME INVASION
You thought you were all alone? Nope – change your password, says ICO
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
Meet OneRNG: a fully-open entropy generator for a paranoid age
Kiwis to seek random investors for crowd-funded randomiser
USB coding anarchy: Consider all sticks licked
Thumb drive design ruled by almighty buck
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
Attack reveals 81 percent of Tor users but admins call for calm
Cisco Netflow a handy tool for cheapskate attackers
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Getting ahead of the compliance curve
Learn about new services that make it easy to discover and manage certificates across the enterprise and how to get ahead of the compliance curve.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.