Recently, a client was experiencing interesting issues during a scheduled assessment of their internal networks around the world. It appeared as if the assessment was causing a Denial of Service and affecting a specific location due to automation controllers within their environment. An interesting anomaly, considering these controllers are deployed at other locations. However, only one specific location seemed to be having issues. The DoS was even more intersting from our perspective because it was literally locking the doors to the facility in question! We weren’t testing for this vulnerability; but found it was a side effect of an internal assessment we completed to provide metrics and action plans according to our 80/20 guidelines. These are exactly the type of issues that help our clients understand the value of these ongoing assessments.
So what’s the big deal? Let’s say an employee just got nagged about their three 15 minute smoke breaks every hour. Let’s also say he has knowledge of the environment and/or experience with a vulnerability scanner. Technically, he could lock the facility down while searching out possible ways to retaliate and his employer wouldn’t even know it. Worse yet, those who know this flaw exists could exploit it at will with a few keystrokes from their workstation. Not a good thing!
Controllers and sensors of similar types are used in businesses around the globe. This case study provides another point for enclaving in any environment. The overall threat could have been reduced significantly simply by segregating traffic. There are few reasons these specific hosts should be accessed by most workstations. Fortunately, the issues didn’t last long. After some communication with the manufacturer, a firmware update was released that appears to have resolved the issues previously experienced.
So the bottom line is know your environment. It is the foundation for our 80/20 Rule for Security (link) and can lay the groundwork for discovering where vulnerabilities may lurk. Forewarned is forearmed.