Building automation systems are so bad IBM hacked one for free

Remote sites owned as router, controller and server all fall to pen-test team


An IBM-led penetration testing team has thoroughly owned an enterprise building management network in a free assessment designed to publicise the horrid state of embedded device security.

The IBM X-Force team of Paul Ionescu, Jonathan Fitz-Gerald, John Zuccato, and Warren Moynihan, along with Akamai engineer Brennan Brazeau, conducted the test on an unnamed business with multiple offices.

The team owned several buildings through the internet-facing building automation system which sported a controller, sensors, and thermostats.

"[We could] take control of the individual building system, but also gain access to a central server … which could extend control to several other geographically dispersed buildings," the team wrote in a report (PDF).

The hackers say they found exposed administration ports in the company's first building, gaining access to a D-Link panel enabled to allow remote monitoring, and an environmental reporting web server used by the building controller device.

The team say that "... by adding an extra carriage return after the page request it was possible to bypass the router’s authentication."

They found command injection vulnerabilities in the router and found a list of commands in the firmware source code.

They found a cleartext password in the router's var directory that not only granted more router pwnage but, thanks to password-reuse, allowed them to compromise the building management system.

"Had the router password been encrypted or if a different password had been used, it would have been much harder … to access the building automation controller."

The building automation system server used a different password and so the hacking gang turned to Google and found the embedded device software ran diagnostic pages allowing for command execution.

Some URL flipping led to remote code execution and a configuration file contained within coughed up the softly-encrypted admin credentials.

"To prevent such an attack, keys should be dynamically generated based on device characteristics [meaning] attackers would need complete access to the system to be able to decrypt the password."

The building automation system vendor says the service should not be exposed and therefore did not patch the device.

The final step required the hackers to drive to the company's car park to get around the admin's IP address whitelisting set on the building automation system server. The D-Link was whitelisted so the team used the previously stolen credentials to log into the wireless.

Admins should ensure devices are patched; IP addresses are whitelisted; firewalls are up; unnecessary remote access is down, and passwords are unique. ®


Other stories you might like

  • DigitalOcean tries to take sting out of price hike with $4 VM
    Cloud biz says it is reacting to customer mix largely shifting from lone devs to SMBs

    DigitalOcean attempted to lessen the sting of higher prices this week by announcing a cut-rate instance aimed at developers and hobbyists.

    The $4-a-month droplet — what the infrastructure-as-a-service outfit calls its virtual machines — pairs a single virtual CPU with 512 MB of memory, 10 GB of SSD storage, and 500 GB a month in network bandwidth.

    The launch comes as DigitalOcean plans a sweeping price hike across much of its product portfolio, effective July 1. On the low-end, most instances will see pricing increase between $1 and $16 a month, but on the high-end, some products will see increases of as much as $120 in the case of DigitalOceans’ top-tier storage-optimized virtual machines.

    Continue reading
  • GPL legal battle: Vizio told by judge it will have to answer breach-of-contract claims
    Fine-print crucially deemed contractual agreement as well as copyright license in smartTV source-code case

    The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) has won a significant legal victory in its ongoing effort to force Vizio to publish the source code of its SmartCast TV software, which is said to contain GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1 copyleft-licensed components.

    SFC sued Vizio, claiming it was in breach of contract by failing to obey the terms of the GPLv2 and LGPLv2.1 licenses that require source code to be made public when certain conditions are met, and sought declaratory relief on behalf of Vizio TV owners. SFC wanted its breach-of-contract arguments to be heard by the Orange County Superior Court in California, though Vizio kicked the matter up to the district court level in central California where it hoped to avoid the contract issue and defend its corner using just federal copyright law.

    On Friday, Federal District Judge Josephine Staton sided with SFC and granted its motion to send its lawsuit back to superior court. To do so, Judge Staton had to decide whether or not the federal Copyright Act preempted the SFC's breach-of-contract allegations; in the end, she decided it didn't.

    Continue reading
  • US brings first-of-its-kind criminal charges of Bitcoin-based sanctions-busting
    Citizen allegedly moved $10m-plus in BTC into banned nation

    US prosecutors have accused an American citizen of illegally funneling more than $10 million in Bitcoin into an economically sanctioned country.

    It's said the resulting criminal charges of sanctions busting through the use of cryptocurrency are the first of their kind to be brought in the US.

    Under the United States' International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEA), it is illegal for a citizen or institution within the US to transfer funds, directly or indirectly, to a sanctioned country, such as Iran, Cuba, North Korea, or Russia. If there is evidence the IEEA was willfully violated, a criminal case should follow. If an individual or financial exchange was unwittingly involved in evading sanctions, they may be subject to civil action. 

    Continue reading
  • Meta hires network chip guru from Intel: What does this mean for future silicon?
    Why be a customer when you can develop your own custom semiconductors

    Analysis Here's something that should raise eyebrows in the datacenter world: Facebook parent company Meta has hired a veteran networking chip engineer from Intel to lead silicon design efforts in the internet giant's infrastructure hardware engineering group.

    Jon Dama started as director of silicon in May for Meta's infrastructure hardware group, a role that has him "responsible for several design teams innovating the datacenter for scale," according to his LinkedIn profile. In a blurb, Dama indicated that a team is already in place at Meta, and he hopes to "scale the next several doublings of data processing" with them.

    Though we couldn't confirm it, we think it's likely that Dama is reporting to Alexis Bjorlin, Meta's vice president of infrastructure hardware who previously worked with Dama when she was general manager of Intel's Connectivity group before serving a two-year stint at Broadcom.

    Continue reading
  • Lithium production needs investment to keep pace with battery demand
    Report says $42b will need to be poured into industry over next decade

    Growing demand for lithium for batteries means the sector will need $42 billion of investment to meet the anticipated level of orders by the end of the decade, according to a report.

    Lithium is used in batteries that power smartphones and laptops, but there is also rising use in electric vehicles which is putting additional pressure on supplies.

    The report, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, predicts that demand will reach 2.4 million tons of lithium carbonate equivalent by 2030, roughly four times the 600,000 tons of lithium forecast to be produced this year.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022