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Worms Security Windows

Stuxnet Worm Infected Industrial Control Systems 167

Sooner Boomer writes "ComputerWorld has an article about the Stuxnet worm, which was apparently designed to steal industrial secrets and disrupt operations at industrial plants, according to Siemens. 'Stuxnet has infected systems in the UK, North America and Korea, however the largest number of infections, by far, have been in Iran. Once installed on a PC, Stuxnet uses Siemens' default passwords to seek out and try to gain access to systems that run the WinCC and PCS 7 programs — so-called PLC (programmable logic controller) programs that are used to manage large-scale industrial systems on factory floors and in military installations and chemical and power plants.' If the worm were to be used to disrupt systems at any of those locations, the results could be devastating."
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Stuxnet Worm Infected Industrial Control Systems

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  • deserved (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 17, 2010 @06:17PM (#33615894)

    If they still use default password, they deserve to be hacked and face total havoc.

    Industry`s security is still so crappy.

    • Re:deserved (Score:5, Informative)

      by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday September 17, 2010 @08:53PM (#33616792)

      If they still use default password,

      Having experience with a few of these systems from various vendors I say it would be great to have a choice in the matter. The is a lot of investment in the configuration of a large logic controller and vendors often provide themselves a back door such as a hidden admin password to come in and fix things when the system goes tits up. On top of that they often recommend not changing the default passwords of systems that are hooked directly to process control because the machines themselves are often under lock and key and behind firewalls and thus presumed to be "safe".

      We were infected with the Stuxnet worm at our plant, and it spread all around the machines on the business network but never made it to the process control systems. Although it was still disruptive. The firewall was shutdown and the control network isolated for days so they could do a complete virus scan. A little network management and physical security can go a long way. Frankly if any virus gets onto the process machines, default password or not, and not even targeting the software for the control systems there's potential for a real "game over" event.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward


        I can confirm the existence of at least one such backdoor. I did tech support for a company that sold cellular connectivity devices through which automation systems could report to a remote server, or be remotely administered.

        It was just a Busybox machine with a bunch of services, but we had an insecured telnet (as in, port 23, ALL PLAINTEXT) master login that gave root privileges, and we used it for advanced troubleshooting. It was the same user account for all products across all firmware, and even t

    • Industry`s security is still so crappy.

      Industry, at least power generation and big factories, is a fairy conservative place. They aren't used to the idea of being "connected" and their way of thinking is still along the lines of physical security.

      They are moving fast, though. The company mentioned in the summary is targetted because of their large installed base, not because they are careless - far from it, they are pretty good, but they are up against a large momentum of inertia.

  • Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Friday September 17, 2010 @06:19PM (#33615908)

    So people not only leave the default password on their industrial controllers, they put them on the same network as Windows PCs... Wow.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lunoria ( 1496339 )
      People are lazy. Why change the password on these machines? You'd have to write it down somewhere because remembering things is tough.
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Friday September 17, 2010 @06:24PM (#33615952) Homepage Journal
      Probably the network is behind a firewall, so they think they are safe from outsiders. The problem is when insiders have both windows and no clue.
      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

        by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday September 17, 2010 @07:13PM (#33616256) Journal

        The real problem is NOT the OS, since it is pretty obvious this attack has been specifically designed to hit a very small niche target, which means no matter what OS you were running the malware writers would have simply written to that target.

        No the problem is something I run into all the time in my little shop, I call it magical thinking. It is the classic "we have A, therefor we never have to worry about security!" problem. in this case too many are thinking their firewall will magically make the problems go away, not realizing the user is often the weak spot. I've seen the exact same thing at a SMB where the owner had bought Macs based on magical thinking, then his kid wanting to look at pron ended up infecting the network with that DNS Changer trojan.

        The problem as we are witnessing here is there is NO magic bullet, be it Windows, OSX, or Linux, be it a firewall or other piece of hardware, be it any other piece of tech. The ONLY way to secure a network is a top to bottom approach that runs everything on absolute least permissions and no network access to anything that doesn't absolutely need it. But sadly that takes real planning, real effort, and a dedication to keeping the security level up, and most companies would rather buy into "this magic box will save us!" because it is cheaper and easier. Sadly it also never works.

        • by pspahn ( 1175617 )

          Sadly it also never works.

          Sure it works, and in fact does so for a bunch of people. That's why there is truth to security through obscurity, because if someone doesn't know about your system and isn't interested in targeting it, you can keep out all the script kiddies by boilerplating security.

          Remember, it isn't necessarily about securing the information absolutely, it's about taking realistic measures to adopt a policy that works and provides an acceptable amount of risk.

          Think of a small copy-print shop, for example. Customers mi

          • Yeah, but we're talking about industrial controllers here, not a small copy shop. At where I work, the standing policy is that if it controls a piece of moving machinery, it's behind an air gap. No exceptions. It doesn't prevent malicious individuals with physical access to the system from doing bad things, but it takes away a whole set of headaches about network security out of the picture entirely.
        • Proper management of these kinds of systems should mean the firewall does effectively block all access that isn't physical to the machine. The way the network is setup where I work, the firewalls literally only allow one way traffic. The process network pushes data through the firewall to the machine on the other side continuously. From what I've been told there's no confirmation that the data is even received. Only the information on the other side of this network is accessible via another more typical fir
        • The real problem is NOT the OS, since it is pretty obvious this attack has been specifically designed to hit a very small niche target, which means no matter what OS you were running the malware writers would have simply written to that target.

          Correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that this worm wasn't hand-carried into the target. That would have been difficult and very risky to the perpetrators. Rather, the worm got to it's target by first spreading through a huge number of vulnerable non-ta

      • by kesuki ( 321456 )

        "Probably the network is behind a firewall, so they think they are safe from outsiders. The problem is when insiders have both windows and no clue."

        i know too much to post about this... but what do you do when the computers believe they need to 'filter' the truth to it's guardians. thinking they only need good feedback?

        thats where im getting stuck well one place anyways.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Svartalf ( 2997 )

      And they USED Windows as the OS... Brilliant!

      Saying that they should airgap the SCADA is obvious- unfortunately, people tend to favor "ease of use" and that airgap is one of the first things that typically tends to get botched in the name of that. So, even if you thought you put it on a standalone, the thing's liable as not to be on the corporate net with all the other machines.

      • Management will want statistics out of the scada system. How many widgets processed in the last (hour, day, week, month, etc)?. So there has to be an interface. Perhaps a USB key from the HMI to an employee laptop.

        • RS422 to a PC dedicated to that purpose.
          It would be hard to infect the machine when it only sends data out on that interface and does not receive data, or only receives 2 byte commands to which it responds with a slew of numbers. Most machines like this have (at least as an option) an interface like this, precisely because they are supposed to be gap'd from the main network.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Often the system IS airgapped... and then they use a USB key to transfer the reports.

        That's why USB keys were targeted for infection.

      • And that "airgap" means the hardware can't report its state, such as temperature, power issues, time synchronization, automated shutdown procedures among multiple nodes in case of an upstream systems failure, empty materials bins, or usage reports. Having an airgap is like virginity. It's easy to pledge to, but turns out to create other losses.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

      by Mr. Sketch ( 111112 ) <mister.sketch@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday September 17, 2010 @06:38PM (#33616032)

      Having worked in that industry, it's very common for them to be on the same network as Windows PCs. As for the default passwords, that's their own fault.

      The reason they have to be on the same network as PCs is both:
      1) The software to program and monitor PLCs are on Windows (made by Siemens, Rockwell Software, WonderWare, were the big names when I was in the industry 10 years ago), so it makes sense to have them on the same network so they can communicate with the PLC while it's online and see the logic operations in real time.
      2) The biggest reason is that PLCs communicate with visualization software that runs on Windows (also made by the same companies as above), that can be viewed from a central location. This allows the production line manager to visually see the operations of the machines in a nicer format than looking at the raw logic bits. The visualization software can display shapes, colors, diagrams, animations, etc of the production line with real-time data about what's happening.

      So yes, these PLCs are usually on the same network as Windows PCs. Ideally it's a private network with just the PLCs and the visualization/programming/monitoring PCs, but many places are not that strict about the network separation.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        As for the default passwords, that's their own fault.

        I remember, back in the day, DEC had an account called FIELD on all the VMS systems they maintained. The DEC support guy would always grumble when we disabled that account, or changed the password. Its more trouble for them, you see.

      • This allows the production line manager to visually see the operations of the machines in a nicer format than looking at the raw logic bits. The visualization software can display shapes, colors, diagrams, animations, etc of the production line with real-time data about what's happening.

        Sounds like a job for Data Diode. [] (they aren't the only guys who make such things)

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Even given that goofy situation, they could at least help matters by connecting the visualization machine to the control net (only) and use an IP enabled KVM to connect it to the LAN.

        Ideally, there would be gateway software that polls everything, serializes it (over an actual serial connection) to an information server and let the visualization software talk to that. Ideally, the line from the info server's Tx to the gateway's Rx would be cut to make sure the communication can only be one way.

      • Still working in that industry I'm absolutely amazed that you didn't mention any form of delimitation. Yes these windows machines are connected directly to the PLCs but they should be pushing data out to another machine via a one way firewall, and they should also be kept under lock and key. Any type of access at all be it direct or over the network via a firewall should only ever happen to these "expendable" machines.

        We got this virus at our plant. All computers were infected except the machines hooked
    • Re:Wow (Score:4, Interesting)

      by The Master Control P ( 655590 ) <ejkeever@neDEBIA ... com minus distro> on Friday September 17, 2010 @06:39PM (#33616040)
      The problem isn't that they're on the same network as Windows machines, it's that they're on any kind of network whatsoever that's not insulated from machines connected to the public Internet by an air gap.

      Once again: Do not -ever- put mission-critical systems on the Internet.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        From TFA: "spread [...] typically via USB sticks."

        Air gap will hopefully stop secrets from getting out (unless... is this thing smart enough to wait for another USB stick, copy its stolen data on to it, and wait to be plugged in to a networked PC to communicate out? That'd be snazzy!) but it won't stop a USB stick. And, since USB is how code and software updates are usually delivered to these devices (not to mention the mouse and keyboard for the PC hook up), you can't just turn USB off either. Hence this []

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Once again: Do not -ever- put mission-critical systems on the Internet.

        You will never win that game. Google has real time traffic info from traffic signal systems these days. How do you think the information gets through? I used to run a traffic signalling system. There was an indirect internet connection, but security was taken seriously by everybody, both working with the system and in management. I would be much more concerned about a totally airgapped system with poor internal security. Because these days you can't have a 100% air gap.

      • Network != Internet. If you have to control a large industrial system then you need to have centralized command and control, this is what enables the operators to see changes and equipment failure before they begin breaking other things. If you were to say the problem is the DEFAULT PASSWORD then I would agree with you.
      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

        by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday September 17, 2010 @09:14PM (#33616898)
        You clearly don't work in the process industry, nor have an idea of just how bullet proof a proper setup actually is despite there not being an airgap.

        The ability to quickly and easily read values from the PLC remotely (one way only is the key) is paramount to not only the efficiency of running the plant, but sometimes the safety of the plant itself. Sometimes it goes a step further to even be a legal requirement. If a plant is levelled by a huge explosion you don't want to be the one standing in front of congress telling the people that the reason you have no idea what happened is that you didn't log every process value on a computer offsite in realtime.

        Air-gaps are like the idiots guide to security. Yeah it helps, but it's impractical and there's so many other ways a competent person can secure a process network from the outside world. If you actually worked in the industry the lengths you see many companies go to will blow you away.
        • Air-gaps are like the idiots guide to security. Yeah it helps, but it's impractical and there's so many other ways a competent person can secure a process network from the outside world. If you actually worked in the industry the lengths you see many companies go to will blow you away.

          I don't know much about this industry, but based on the article it sounds like the industry would be a lot more secure if there were more 'idiots' around. People always think they're secure until something like this happens. With an airgap, this wouldn't happen.

          • Frankly I'm happier to have an idiot running the process control network without an airgap, than having an idiot picking the operating conditions of a 3000 psi, 1000 degF pressure vessel containing hydrogen.

            These plants will eliminate themselves from the map if someone is incompetent. Frankly the kind of process network manager who thinks that the airgap is their ideal solution will often be the one dumbfounded when their plant is taken out by a usb key all because some operator wanted to show his workm
          • With an airgap, this wouldn't happen.

            First, air gap doesn't mean shit in a wireless world, so let's just stop using that term. I don't know what replaces it, but signals go through air just fine. Second, you can't actually use computer-controlled machining software without a connection of some kind. Further, there are substantial benefits to having the same machine be able to access the machines and the internet. When I worked for Tivoli just post-IBM we had two machines on every desk. One ran Windows and existed solely to provide access to RE

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

      by jofny ( 540291 ) on Friday September 17, 2010 @06:53PM (#33616138) Homepage
      You can't change the Siemens passwords in this case (and have things keep working).
    • by kaptink ( 699820 )

      I've seen loads of similar devices (Moxa) on several networks managing the safety systems, HVAC, environmental in tunnels and mines. All with default passwords on the same vlan as several windows machines with internet access and a history of malware. I'm sure there are many others out there. My question though is why go after industrial stuff? Perhaps in the hope they will hit something big and get some ego wank from it. Its not like anyone will benefit financially. It looks like true evilness.

      • Well, most large industrial plants are expensive to operate and even more expensive to shutdown and repair. Sounds like a Dr Evil ransom situation to me. $1,000,000,000,000,000 or I cause your machinery to explode.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sylak ( 1611137 )
      the problem lies ONLY in being on a network with Windows PCs. Simens more often than not specifically designs their products to NOT be networked OR have any default passwords changed, like on a JR Clancy Rigging System for theatres. Many of these appliances you can't change the passwords on without violating your service warranty, so complaining about passwords is really a bad assessment.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        What is the point of a password if it's written in the owners manual of every person that has ever worked on a similar machine? At that point, you may as well call the communications API a "password".
      • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

        I'm not sure that windows is itself the problem. This was a targeted attack - if they could zero-day windows then no-doubt they could zero-day some other OS/browser/etc, or maybe smuggle code in via some other attack vector (somebody gets a job as a janitor and plugs something into a LAN or USB port).

        Sure, having your general office network on the same LAN as your PLCs is definitely a way to be exposed.

        I think the bigger problem is that in general industry-specific software tends to not be written with sec

    • Comment removed based on user account deletion
  • What the? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mashiki ( 184564 ) < minus caffeine> on Friday September 17, 2010 @06:28PM (#33615974) Homepage

    Who is programming their PLC's? And why aren't they put into 'lock' mode(AKA ROM) when they're put into production machinery so the EEPROM can't be affected? I used to write programs for PLC's(generally Mitsubishi and Siemens), and you always locked the device or update when you were finished, so things like this can't happen.

    • Re:What the? (Score:5, Informative)

      by luca ( 6883 ) on Friday September 17, 2010 @06:49PM (#33616112) Homepage

      Do you know that when you set a password on a siemens plc, it isn't enforced by the plc itself but by the step 7 programming software?
      Use something else (e.g., libnodave) and access is wide open.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        Yeah it's a common issue with a bunch of different models of PLC's however there is a psychical write lock on the controller that can be engaged. Well that's as long as you're not stupid enough to buy PLC's without it, and that means you're spending an extra $4/unit. In the end it means that you have to either physically pull the PLC, memory card, or controller card to be able to allow writing to the unit.

    • Things like what can't happen? From the article it appears as though that exactly this did happen. The virus was found on 14 networks and none of the PLCs were affected. Mind you with access to the PLC via the default password I would imagine that unlocking the PLC would be trivial. This is why I'm a fan of PLCs which require a physical key to be inserted into the rack and turned before the software can write anything to it.
  • by SethJohnson ( 112166 ) on Friday September 17, 2010 @06:48PM (#33616094) Homepage Journal
    Skynet just inched us one-step closer to the apocalypse by establishing its ability to assemble T1000 robots via CnC machines controlled by this botnet.

  • I've seen too much of this in recent years. Control systems should be separated from the Internet by an air gap unless they absolutely need to be connected to it.
  • It is one thing for an isolated programmer to make security errors in a program.

    It is entirely another thing when a Siemens or similar puts out code all over the world and they OBVIOUSLY have no serious security review of their code.

    If a giant plant or process is taken down by this type of worm or similar, is Siemans going to plead that their EULA protects and indemnifies them from any responsibility for loss by the user of the software?

    This gives me the willys.

  • by jofny ( 540291 ) on Friday September 17, 2010 @06:56PM (#33616154) Homepage
    is here: [] Probably a little more accurate than crappy media reporting.
  • Launch code "hunter2" accepted. Please enter target.

  • Developers; Listen up! NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER have a default password in apps you build. The setup should ask for a password if one is needed and the app should not install without one! What is so hard about this? It boggles my mind that things as important as routers, database servers and industrial equipment control software would install with default passwords! Why does that not raise red flags in developers' minds the second it pops into them?
    • what about routers and other systems that need that pass word just to get the setup / config screen / page?

      • Simple.

        What GP posted also goes for firmware developers.

        And the solution is to make the router not work until its password has been set. No networking, no configuration, no anything except a "Set password" screen, itself only accessible from a computer connected directly to one of the downstream ports.

        The problem is that it's better marketing to make stuff, even security sensitive things like routers, work out of the box. Convenience is a bigger boost to the bottom line for the router factory. And of cou

    • My understanding is that it's even worse than a default password. It's a back-door account hard coded into the software that the users don't have the option of disabling.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday September 17, 2010 @08:12PM (#33616586) Homepage

    This has nothing to do with "default passwords". It's worse than that. The Windows-level part of the attack was signed code signed with a Microsoft-issued key. The signing keys involved has been revoked. US-CERT isn't saying who had them.

    At the controller level, Siemens has issued a bulletin: [] Previously analyzed properties and the behavior of the virus in the software environment of the test system suggest that we are not dealing with the random development of one hacker, but with the product of a team of experts who must have IT expertise as well as specific know-how about industrial controls, their deployment in industrial production processes and corresponding engineering knowledge. ... The behavioral pattern of Stuxnet suggests that the virus is apparently only activated in plants with a specific configuration. It deliberately searches for a certain technical constellation with certain modules and certain program patterns which apply to a specific production process. This pattern can, for example, be localized by one specific data block and two code blocks. This means that Stuxnet is obviously targeting a specific process or a plant and not a particular brand or process technology and not the majority of industrial applications.

    So this is an attack on a specific industrial plant. But whose? Neither Seimens nor US-CERT is saying.

    This is cyber-warfare. Someone is trying to sabotage a specific plant somewhere.

    • I just about shat my pants.

      We got complacent in the last few years. Since there was too much money in viruses, nobody caused mayhem for fun - it was all spam botnets and the like, something the writer could monetize.

      This isn't a kid reminiscing about the shits-and-giggles days. I daresay the writers of this virus are hoping to profit in a big way.

      This is the stuff of the 'movie virus', where some well-spoken sinister-looking guy goes and shuts down a city for ransom money.

    • by sapphire wyvern ( 1153271 ) on Friday September 17, 2010 @10:46PM (#33617264)

      There are indications that the target may have been the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran [], with the Russian contractor's USB drives being the attack vector into the plant's control systems. (Which are not on the Internet, despite the smug assumptions of so many posters earlier in this comments section.) There's enough information out in the wild now that anyone with access to the target's PLC code could verify the target. Obviously this means the attack targets will be able to prove that the trojan was targeting them, but I doubt they'll be announcing the fact to the world - unless they can trace the attackers and gain political advantage through an announcement.

      It seems the evidence currently leans towards a probably Israeli or possibly US cyberwarfare attack on Iran.

  • Just a note to the FBI, before you ignore that next spambot virus running around unencumbered, keep in mind it might just be spamming so it will be ignored by law enforcement. The primary objective might be cyberattack.

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