Update patches – An ongoing mantra from Omega ATC. Not doing so can lead to more breaches.

  • Team Omega
  • June 6, 2014

Researchers Uncover Holes That Open Power Stations to Hacking

An article on Wired from this morning reports, “a pair of researchers have uncovered more than two dozen vulnerabilities in products used in critical infrastructure systems that would allow attackers to crash or hijack the servers controlling electric substations and water systems.”

The vulnerabilities include some that would allow an attacker to crash or send a master server into an infinite loop, preventing operators from monitoring or controlling operations. Others would allow remote code-injection into a server, providing an opportunity for an attacker to open and close breakers at substations and cause power outages.

One of the researchers say, “Every substation is controlled by the master, which is controlled by the operator,” says researcher Chris Sistrunk who, along with Adam Crain, found vulnerabilities in the products of more than 20 vendors. “If you have control of the master, you have control of the whole system, and you can turn on and off power at will.”

The vulnerabilities are found in devices that are used for serial and network communications between servers and substations. These products have been largely overlooked as hacking risks because the security of power systems has focused only on IP communication, and hasn’t considered serial communication an important or viable attack vector, Crain says. But the researchers say that breaching a power system through serial communication devices can actually be easier than attacking through the IP network since it doesn’t require bypassing layers of firewalls.