Feeds

Air traffic control data found on eBayed network gear

NATS passwords and info left on £20 switch

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

A switch formerly used by the UK's air-traffic service which still held networking configurations and passwords has been sold on eBay, raising security concerns.

The £20 Cisco Catalyst switch was bought by security consultant Michael Kemp, co-founder at Xiphos Research Labs, who quickly discovered that it has been used at the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) centre in Prestwick. Data on the switch included supervisor credentials, internal VLAN and other networking configurations and upstream switch addresses as well as domains, gateways and syslogs.

"For twenty quid, I have got full switching details (and creds) for a switch that was in use two years ago to help keep planes in the air at Prestwick," Kemp explained. "Obviously this is a security fail, especially as the seller had 13 of the units that may well have come from the same estate."

Offloading kit onto eBay with data pertaining to estates that manage critical national infrastructure is obviously undesirable, Kemp told El Reg.

"Practical consequences are hard to call," Kemp explained. "But we have full details of their internal VLAN estate, SNMP community strings (read and write, named after aircraft funnily enough), some idea about password composition, VTP Trunk info and password, and details of upstream switching.

"Basically what that means is that we could wander up to Prestwick, slot in our own switch (with no outside, adult help) and control all traffic that was switched over it."

"It's bloody unlikely, but the configs in question basically give us a lot of data," Kemp concluded.

The problem wouldn't have arisen if the configuration data on the Cisco switches, which is stored in flash memory, was purged prior to the sale. "It should be standard practice to overwrite all such data prior to appliances going out into the wild," Kemp commented.

A NATS spokesman downplayed the significance of the breach, telling Channel 4 News that the data contained on the switch "in no way formed part of air traffic control operations".

In a statement, NATS told Channel 4 News: "We have a contract with a specialist firm to handle the secure destruction and disposal of our equipment. We are investigating with them why equipment that we have a destruction certificate for was subsequently sold online.

"As soon as Mr Kemp alerted us to what he had found on the switch – which had been used only in non-operational and non-safety critical systems – we ensured that the integrity of our business systems was further enhanced. At no time were those business systems at risk.

"This equipment does not form part of our operational air traffic control systems."

The switch bought by Kemp was part of a batch of 13. A NATS spokesman told Channel 4 News that unspecified actions taken since the breach came to light "negate anything on those switches". Hopefully that means that air traffic control has changed its passwords and settings, hopefully to something more secure, as well as reviewing its kit disposal policies.

Kemp highlighted the incident as part of a presentation on critical national infrastructure protection at the GrrCon conference in Michigan earlier this month, entitled When I Grow Up I want to be a Cyberterrorist. Kemp bought the Cisco switch because he needed it to help run the network at his office rather than as part of a targeted research project looking at what pieces of interesting information might have been left on secondhand networking kit.

"Before installation I noticed the NATS label on the back, and thus investigated further," Kemp explained. "It wasn't bought to be reviewed, it was bought to be used but the universe dropped it in my lap." ®

Bootnote

The security risks created by auctioning off secondhand PCs without wiping computer disks first are well documented. eBayed networking kit poses similar but less well publicised risks. Previous examples include an auctioned secondhand piece of networking kit that automatically connected to the internal network of Kirklees Council in Yorkshire, an issue that cropped up in 2009.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Ice cream headache as black hat hacks sack Dairy Queen
I scream, you scream, we all scream 'DATA BREACH'!
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
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
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
JLaw, Kate Upton exposed in celeb nude pics hack
100 women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
Oz fed police in PDF redaction SNAFU
Give us your metadata, we'll publish your data
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
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.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.