Oh sh*t's, 11: VxWorks stars in today's security thriller – hijack bugs discovered in countless gadgets' network code

Equipment in hospitals, factories, offices, etc potentially vulnerable to attack

Wind River has patched 11 security vulnerabilities in VxWorks that can be potentially exploited over networks or the internet to commandeer all sorts of equipment dotted around the planet.

This real-time operating system powers car electronics, factory robots and controllers, aircraft and spacecraft, wireless routers, medical equipment, digital displays, and plenty of other stuff – so if you deploy a vulnerable version of VxWorks, and it is network or internet-connected, you definitely want to check this out.

This set of bugs seemingly primarily affects things like printers and gateways, though, we must point out.

The vulnerabilities, discovered by security outfit Armis, can be exploited to leak internal device information, crash gadgets, and – in more than half of the flaws – execute malicious code on machines. It is estimated that VxWorks runs on two billion devices as an embedded OS, though Armis reckoned 200 million gizmos are actually potentially affected. Wind River told El Reg it reckons that second figure, as an estimate, is too high.

According to Armis [PDF] today, all 11 of the vulnerabilities (dubbed Urgent/11 for marketing purposes) are found in the VxWorks TCP/IP stack, IPnet. Bear in mind, this stack can be found in non-VxWorks systems: Wind River acquired it in 2006 when it bought Interpeak, which had licensed its code to other real-time operating system makers.

Wind and cloud

Intel flogs off Wind River after it failed to deliver mobile supremacy


As such, an attacker needs network access to a vulnerable device, either on a LAN or over the internet if for some reason the gadget is public facing. VxWorks version 6.5 or higher, released circa 2006, with IPnet is vulnerable, except VxWorks 7 SR0620, which is the latest build: it contains patches that fix the aforementioned holes, and was released on July 19 following Armis' discovery of the blunders. Safety-certified flavors of the OS, such as VxWorks 653 and VxWorks Cert Edition are said to be unaffected.

"As each vulnerability affects a different part of the network stack, it impacts a different set of VxWorks versions," Armis researchers Ben Seri, Gregory Vishnepolsky, and Dor Zusman said in a write-up. "As a group, URGENT/11 affect VxWorks’ versions 6.5 and above with at least one remote code execution vulnerability affecting each version."

Should a miscreant be able to connect to a vulnerable VxWorks device, they would potentially be able to send packets that could exploit any of the six critical flaws (CVE-2019-12256, CVE-2019-12255, CVE-2019-12260, CVE-2019-12261, CVE-2019-12263, CVE-2019-12257) to gain remote code execution, thus leading to a complete takeover of the hardware.

Obviously, the seriousness of the exploit would depend on the device itself and where it sits on the network. External-facing devices like firewalls and routers could be pwned to act as the springboard for a larger attack, or embedded devices like industrial appliances could be exploited to cause physical damage.

Additionally, a hacker could cause a denial of service via two of the bugs (CVE-2019-12258, CVE-2019-12259), leak information (CVE-2019-12265), or tamper with devices through logic flaws (CVE-2019-12264, CVE-2019-12262).

Curiosity selfie as it drills for water

NASA rover coders at Intel's Wind River biz axed – sources


Wind River is advising folks to update their installations to protect against exploits, though none have been reported in the wild so far – which is good news because VxWorks-powered equipment typically runs constantly in critical functions where sudden outages for upgrades are most unfavorable. Also, you can't just push firmware updates out to machinery and hope for the best: new builds have to go through rounds of testing first.

"In addition to the difficulty in identifying which devices run VxWorks, device manufacturers are also faced with a challenge to provide firmware upgrades within a reasonable time," the Armis researchers noted. "Many VxWorks devices, such as medical and industrial devices, are required to go through extensive testing and certification processes before firmware updates can be provided to end-users."

A spokesperson for Wind River told The Register VxWorks "has built-in security features that protect against the vulnerabilities when enabled," meaning it's quite possible at-risk devices will automatically thwart exploit attempts using defenses such as non-executable stacks – if enabled, of course. It is also possible to firewall off VxWorks-powered equipment from the rest of the network or world, of course.

They added that vulnerable machines likely "make up a small subset of our customer base, and primarily include enterprise devices located at the perimeter of organizational networks that are internet-facing such as modems, routers, and printers."

There's more info over here in an FAQ from Wind River. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Intel is running rings around AMD and Arm at the edge
    What will it take to loosen the x86 giant's edge stranglehold?

    Analysis Supermicro launched a wave of edge appliances using Intel's newly refreshed Xeon-D processors last week. The launch itself was nothing to write home about, but a thought occurred: with all the hype surrounding the outer reaches of computing that we call the edge, you'd think there would be more competition from chipmakers in this arena.

    So where are all the AMD and Arm-based edge appliances?

    A glance through the catalogs of the major OEMs – Dell, HPE, Lenovo, Inspur, Supermicro – returned plenty of results for AMD servers, but few, if any, validated for edge deployments. In fact, Supermicro was the only one of the five vendors that even offered an AMD-based edge appliance – which used an ageing Epyc processor. Hardly a great showing from AMD. Meanwhile, just one appliance from Inspur used an Arm-based chip from Nvidia.

    Continue reading
  • TSMC may surpass Intel in quarterly revenue for first time
    Fab frenemies: x86 giant set to give Taiwanese chipmaker more money as it revitalizes foundry business

    In yet another sign of how fortunes have changed in the semiconductor industry, Taiwanese foundry giant TSMC is expected to surpass Intel in quarterly revenue for the first time.

    Wall Street analysts estimate TSMC will grow second-quarter revenue 43 percent quarter-over-quarter to $18.1 billion. Intel, on the other hand, is expected to see sales decline 2 percent sequentially to $17.98 billion in the same period, according to estimates collected by Yahoo Finance.

    The potential for TSMC to surpass Intel in quarterly revenue is indicative of how demand has grown for contract chip manufacturing, fueled by companies like Qualcomm, Nvidia, AMD, and Apple who design their own chips and outsource manufacturing to foundries like TSMC.

    Continue reading
  • Intel withholds Ohio fab ceremony over US chip subsidies inaction
    $20b factory construction start date unchanged – but the x86 giant is not happy

    Intel has found a new way to voice its displeasure over Congress' inability to pass $52 billion in subsidies to expand US semiconductor manufacturing: withholding a planned groundbreaking ceremony for its $20 billion fab mega-site in Ohio that stands to benefit from the federal funding.

    The Wall Street Journal reported that Intel was tentatively scheduled to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the Ohio manufacturing site with state and federal bigwigs on July 22. But, in an email seen by the newspaper, the x86 giant told officials Wednesday it was indefinitely delaying the festivities "due in part to uncertainty around" the stalled Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act.

    That proposed law authorizes the aforementioned subsidies for Intel and others, and so its delay is holding back funding for the chipmakers.

    Continue reading
  • Intel demands $625m in interest from Europe on overturned antitrust fine
    Chip giant still salty

    Having successfully appealed Europe's €1.06bn ($1.2bn) antitrust fine, Intel now wants €593m ($623.5m) in interest charges.

    In January, after years of contesting the fine, the x86 chip giant finally overturned the penalty, and was told it didn't have to pay up after all. The US tech titan isn't stopping there, however, and now says it is effectively seeking damages for being screwed around by Brussels.

    According to official documents [PDF] published on Monday, Intel has gone to the EU General Court for “payment of compensation and consequential interest for the damage sustained because of the European Commissions refusal to pay Intel default interest."

    Continue reading
  • Intel ships crypto-mining ASIC at the worst possible time
    Chipmaker finally ahead of schedule only to find it arrived too late

    Comment Intel has begun shipping its cryptocurrency-mining "Blockscale" ASIC slightly ahead of schedule, and the timing could not be more unfortunate as digital currency values continue to plummet.

    Raja Koduri, the head of Intel's Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics group, tweeted Wednesday the company has started initial shipments of the Blockscale ASIC to crypto-mining firms Argo Blockchain, Hive Blockchain and Griid:

    Continue reading
  • Intel demos multi-wavelength laser array integrated on silicon wafer
    Next stop – on-chip optical interconnects?

    Intel is claiming a significant advancement in its photonics research with an eight-wavelength laser array that is integrated on a silicon wafer, marking another step on the road to on-chip optical interconnects.

    This development from Intel Labs will enable the production of an optical source with the required performance for future high-volume applications, the chip giant claimed. These include co-packaged optics, where the optical components are combined in the same chip package as other components such as network switch silicon, and optical interconnects between processors.

    According to Intel Labs, its demonstration laser array was built using the company's "300-millimetre silicon photonics manufacturing process," which is already used to make optical transceivers, paving the way for high-volume manufacturing in future. The eight-wavelength array uses distributed feedback (DFB) laser diodes, which apparently refers to the use of a periodically structured element or diffraction grating inside the laser to generate a single frequency output.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022