Sunday, May 6, 2012

Backdoor solar flares

We are in the middle of our EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse)/Solar Flare novel reviews.  I may have made one mistake.  Possibly I should have added another category.

Who needs a solar flare or EMP  to shut down your power grid.  All you need is a backdoor into the the software of your "mission-critical" communications network.

Equipment Maker Caught Installing Backdoor Account in Control System
Kim Zetter, Wired Magazine, 25 April 2012
A Canadian company that makes equipment and software for critical industrial control systems planted a backdoor login account in its flagship operating system, according to a security researcher, potentially allowing attackers to access the devices online. 
The backdoor, which cannot be disabled, is found in all versions of the Rugged Operating System made by RuggedCom, according to independent researcher Justin W. Clarke, who works in the energy sector. The login credentials for the backdoor include a static username, “factory,” that was assigned by the vendor and can’t be changed by customers, and a dynamically generated password that is based on the individual MAC address, or media access control address, for any specific device.
RuggedCom switches and servers are used in “mission-critical” communication networks that operate power grids and railway and traffic control systems as well as manufacturing facilities. RuggedCom asserts on its website that its products are “the product of choice for high-reliability, high-availability, mission-critical communications networks deployed in harsh environments around the world.”

I don't think it is a conspiracy.  But this is yet another case of a company doing something that has a major downside to its customers, and not getting a lot of traction in the news.

The only pickup I have seen of the story is simply a retelling (without crediting) of the original wired magazine story.


Anonymous said...

From the article:

"RuggedCom, which is based in Canada, was recently purchased by the German conglomerate Siemens. Siemens, itself, has been highly criticized for having a backdoor and hard-coded passwords in some of its industrial control system components. The Siemens vulnerabilities, in the company’s programmable logic controllers, would let attackers reprogram the systems with malicious commands to sabotage critical infrastructures or lock out legitimate administrators.

A hardcoded password in a Siemens database was used by the authors of the Stuxnet worm to attack industrial control systems used by Iran in its uranium enrichment program."

I believe it's a left hand-right hand operation.

Or not...

russell1200 said...

Anon: Another obvious reason to do it is so that they can do a back door fix on their screwups so that they don't have to do a big recall.

Which does not preclude your suggestion from also being true.