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Hackers Gain "Full Control" of Critical SCADA Systems

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  • by msobkow (48369) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @11:58AM (#45932121) Homepage Journal

    These issues have been flagged for roughly a decade. I have ZERO SYMPATHY for anyone who gets taken over.

  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @12:30PM (#45932277) Journal

    These issues have been flagged for roughly a decade. I have ZERO SYMPATHY for anyone who gets taken over.

    MSOBKOW this is your boss.

    What do you mean it is a security risk to put this on the internet? Everyone else has no problem doing this and I never heard of anyone being hacked. Like a billion dollar company would ever design such a thing when an internet connection is required to stay activated. Are you telling me that firewall you said we needed doesn't make is impenetrable?! Why can't you secure it? Do I need to hire someone who will?

  • by fisted (2295862) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @12:53PM (#45932389)

    What use is an air-gapped machine? How do you communicate, how do you control it? Build your own physical network infrastructure (preferrably with blackjack and hookers)?

  • Re:Why the hell (Score:3, Insightful)

    by M0HCN (2981905) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @01:09PM (#45932491)

    Because actually it is really very operationally useful, and USEFUL in normal use trumps security EVERY SINGLE TIME.

    Consider someting simple like a public building heating control system, this is probably a modest PLC from the usual suspects, now if I am the poor sap in charge of the building systems (Nightmare, been there, done that), and the thing alarms at say 2100 on my day off, I have a choice:
    I can go in and clear the (often but not always) unimportant problem, takes me an hour to get there and I was on my way in to see a show when it went off, or I can log in over the internet from my phone, see that the problem is that the number two AHU intake filter is showing high backpressure, clear the alarm and make a mental note to replace the filter next time I am in.
    Same thing if the office phone up wanting me to change the setpoint on the air in the art gallery because some conceptual art is made of butter and is tending to melt (I kid you not, really happened).

    Remote access to these systems is USEFUL, and nobody considers security until it bites them.

    Further plant engineers still think in terms of 'ladder logic' which is essentially logic consisting conceptually of relays and coils and the connections between them, they are not by and large networking folk, and plugging the plc into a port on the external side of the firewall makes everything work where plugging it in inside the firewall makes the remote control not work properly....

    Regards, Dan.

  • DUH. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @01:45PM (#45932695) Homepage

    Almost ALL of us that have had to deal with SCADA knew this was possible. Most of the time because incredibly stupid managers DEMAND the systems be accessible from the internet.

    SCADA systems need to be airgapped completely from any network other than their own. Boo Hoo to the company that needs to buy a second set of computers for the employees to get email on. the SCADA computers are to be used ONLY for SCADA systems.

    100% of the security failures lie at the feet of the managers of these facilities. Until we start beating them with sacks of doorknobs nothing will change. and yes, the SCADA infection via usb drives are the fault of management. allowing the use of USB or any other device that has not been secured and low level formatted before use on a known clean machine is the fault of management.

    All USB ports should be disconnected or physically inaccessible via lock and key to users.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @01:56PM (#45932761) Homepage

    It is trivial to make a "one way, unhackable" ethernet connection to export data to a unsafe network device.

    you have a machine on the SCADA network with TWO network cards. One connects to another PC on the insecure network via an ethernet cable with ONLY the TX wires connected. no RX lines. set both to a static IP and then UDP broadcast your information from the secure PC to the insecure one.

    There is no hacker or security expert on this planet that can hack that connection and gain access to the SCADA system. Unless they found a way around physics or can teleport things with their mind.

    http://www.stearns.org/doc/one-way-ethernet-cable.html [stearns.org]

    The problem is most places refuse to hire educated IT staff with experience in security. They want low cost MCSE holders that can barely do their job at the lowest cost possible.

    If updates to SCADA software are needed, "most are not in reality" you use write once media such as a DVD or BluRay created on a machine that has nothing to do with the SCADA system and based on an OS that is drastically different to further reduce the chances of homogenous OS infection vectors. If it's important, then the files are inspected byte by byte on a security computer designed to look for infections and injection. then after full and careful inspection you apply the updates.

    THIS is how you run a critical system SCADA network. and 99% of them out there are not ran this way as the people in charge of it have zero education in security let alone networking and IT.

  • by Ol Olsoc (1175323) on Sunday January 12, 2014 @02:08PM (#45932831)

    What use is an air-gapped machine? How do you communicate, how do you control it?

    So we ran these machines with no control or communication before the interwebz?

    If you want to run these things on the internet, they will be hacked.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 12, 2014 @02:38PM (#45932999)

    Updating breaks now with near certainty. Not updating breaks later with a lower probability. Easy choice,

    Sad, but true.

  • There is an old-school engineering mentality that is pervasive based on the old adage "if it ain't broke don't fix it".

    The problem with that is, by putting it on the internet, they've broken it (even if the breakage hasn't hit home yet). Nobody wants to admit that they've done that, but it's their own damn fault. A good start to fixing things would be to airgap the SCADA network from the internet, and if connecting is necessary at all, to use a good double firewall with hardened DMZ machine in between. The DMZ can be locked down hard and updated carefully, and it doesn't need to ever hold systems that need careful certifying as it should never be in the control loop; just out of band monitoring.

  • This is by no means unique to SCADA systems: I think most people here recognise the symptoms in many fields.

    The people who run the plant are trying to squeeze the maximum amount of yield from their plant.

    Very laudable. That's their job.

    Shutting down a SCADA system so that it can be patched and tested may literally cost them millions of dollars per hour.

    That cost should have been factored into the financials from Day 1. It's usually omitted by managers and accountants because with it, their projections wouldn't look as good.

    Furthermore, the cost of upgrading is not looked upon kindly unless it's going to help you create more of product X at a lower price.

    Bear in mind that the cost of not upgrading may be the end of the company.

    In Economics 1.0, business students get taught that the primary objective of the corporation is to make a profit. Most managers believe this. Wrong. The primary objective of the corporation is to assure continuance, even if that means a couple of years of losses from time to time.

    Failing to recognise this is usually among the early symptoms of eventual failure.

  • by cusco (717999) <brian.bixby@NoSPam.gmail.com> on Sunday January 12, 2014 @04:37PM (#45933617)

    Normally the SCADA systems **ARE** air-gapped from the corporate backbone, but until we start breeding better managers some idiot will occasionally pull a cable across that gap in order to produce a report or something.

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