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SCADA vulnerabilities prompt US government warning

A researcher has shown just how easy it is to find problems in current SCADA software

By Jeremy Kirk, IDG News Service
March 23, 2011 11:58 AM ET

IDG News Service - A flurry of software vulnerabilities found in a variety of industrial control systems has prompted vendors to begin developing patches, following a warning by the U.S. government's Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT).

The security problems were found in SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems made by Siemens, Iconics, 7-Technologies and Datac by researcher Luigi Auriemma, whose findings appeared on his website and the vulnerability site Bugtraq.

The U.S. CERT's Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team issued four alerts on Monday regarding Auriemma's findings.

All of the products have remotely exploitable vulnerabilities, the most dangerous kind. If the systems are connected to the Internet, hackers could find ways to exploit them from afar and get inside the systems to steal or manipulate data.

The systems affected are Siemens' Tecnomatix FactoryLink, which is used in the food, pharmaceutical and metals industries, among many others. Siemens said in 2007 that it would pull FactoryLink from the market in October 2012 and help customer migrate to its WinCC product. According to material published by Siemens in 2008, more than 80,000 FactoryLink systems have been installed worldwide.

Siemens is especially familiar with SCADA vulnerabilities: it's WinCC product was targeted by the Stuxnet malware, which is widely suspected as being developed by a government. It successfully infiltrated Iran's nuclear program, where the country used Siemens WinCC systems. Siemens did not have an immediate comment on the latest vulnerabilities.

Other companies hit by the disclosure include Iconics, whose Genesis32 and Genesis64 software is used in industries such as oil and gas and pharmaceuticals, and Datac, which makes RealWin.

Cyril Kerr, Datac's CEO, said in an e-mail that the vulnerabilities were found in its RealWin product, which is demo version of its RealFlex 6 SCADA product. RealFlex runs on an OS called QNX. However, since companies interested in the product probably don't have that OS, Datac created RealWin, which runs on Windows and can be used to show RealFlex's features, Kerr said.

RealWin is used as a stand-alone application in some instances for machine control, but in environments where it is not connected to the Internet. If a customer wants to connect the system to the Internet, Datac recommends RealFlex, Kerr said. Datac's engineers are looking into the vulnerabilities reported in RealWin but said the problems are "not a real threat."

"Our RealFlex 6 SCADA software is very secure and has gained a reputation as an extremely robust SCADA system used in thousands of sites around the world," Kerr said.

Also affected was the Danish company 7-Technologies, which makes IGSS. That is control software used by some 70 percent of water and waste treatment management plants throughout Scandinavia, said Jens Krogh Løppenthien, the company's managing director. IGSS can also be used for shipping traffic systems.

Løppenthien said on Wednesday that Auriemma's findings had "impressive detail," and that his company expected to issue patches within week.

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