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New report warns of SCADA CYBERGEDDON*

*In the worst case.

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The industrial control system fright machine is getting another kick along today, via a survey by Russian vendor Positive Technologies.

The company’s study makes some startling claims: 40 percent of SCADA systems “available from the Internet” can be easily hacked, half of the vulnerabilities the company found allow the execution of arbitrary code on the target system, one-third of vulnerabilities arise from poor configuration such as using default passwords, and one-quarter are related to users not installing security updates.

The study was based on an analysis of vulnerabilities announced on sources such as ICS-CERT, Bugtraq, vendor advisories, and similar lists.

While the most basic datum – the number of vulnerabilities announced – isn’t surprising (98 in 2012 compared to 64 in 2011, and only 11 in 2010), The Register would note that nobody paid serious attention to SCADA and industrial control security until shocked into action by Stuxnet.

Similarly, while Siemens’ position at the top of the list (with 42 identified vulnerabilities) looks bad, it’s because the vendor has instituted a vulnerability assessment program designed to discover problems in its ICS. The report notes that Siemens has fixed 88 percent of published vulnerabilities (at the top of the list is Advantech with 91 percent of vulnerabilities fixed, compared to Schneider Electric at 56 percent).

However, assessing the risk posed by these vulnerabilities is less easily done. For example: while the study claims that all of the “internet-visible” ICS it identified in Switzerland are vulnerable, that country accounts for less than two percent of the total sample (El Reg also notes that the sample size is unknown).

Without any clear indication of the extent of Positive Technologies’ test, beyond identifying whether a route existed to a device, it’s impossible to discuss whether any of the “Internet-available” devices are secured in any way. ®

Bootnote: Australian admins can, perhaps, breathe a sigh of relief of some kind: the analysis doesn’t report any vulnerable systems down under. ®

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