Feeds

Spotty solar power management platform could crash the grid

Flaky firmware makes power panels p0wnage possible

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Criminals could potentially cause black-outs and mess with power grid configurations by exploiting flaws in a popular solar panel management system used by thousands of homes and businesses.

Details of how the attacks could be executed were kept under wraps while solar panel monitoring kit vendor Solar-Log distributed a patch for the flaws.

The threat is substantial because, as the company boasts, its eponymous management system runs globally on roughly 229,300 solar plants that typically pump out 5.66TWh of electrical energy a day, or so we're told.

But according to Sergey Gordeychik, security researcher and chief technology officer at Russian outfit Positive Security, attackers could break into the Solar-Log boxes and cause significant damage on centralised power grids.

"For instance a massive attack can cause power grid reconfiguration and chains of blackouts [and] bad guys can try to monetise it via blackmail," Goreychik said."

"At moment we can’t disclose more detail [about the vulnerabilities] because thousands of households around the globe are using vulnerable version of Solar-Log and can be attacked by cyber criminals.

Attackers could download Solar-Log configuration files for a variety of versions without being prevented by authentication, mess with user passwords, execute arbitrary code and even manipulate "specific power-generation related values".

This may under certain conditions mean trouble for smart grids where configurations could be changed and users could spoof the amount of power pumped back into grids by their solar installations, effectively scoring free cash.

The three separate flaws detailed here (PDF) related to configuration file and firmware handling processes and were fixed impressively a week after they were quietly reported by Positive Security through Germany's Computer Emergency Response Team (Bund).

The Russian hackers with a penchant for busting Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems did not ordinary spend much time considering threat vectors, Goreychik said, preferring to find and plug vulnerabilities.

Yet their penetration testing work against SCADA systems inevitably leads to the discovery of bugs with potentially life-threatening consequences. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
Multipath TCP speeds up the internet so much that security breaks
Black Hat research says proposed protocol will bork network probes, flummox firewalls
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Fiendishly complex password app extension ships for iOS 8
Just slip it in, won't hurt a bit, 1Password makers urge devs
Tor attack nodes RIPPED MASKS off users for 6 MONTHS
Traffic confirmation attack bared users' privates - but to whom?
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.