Flaws in industrial wi-fi IoT options may give attackers deep entry into OT networks

It is common for operational expertise (OT) groups to attach industrial management programs (ICS) to distant management and monitoring facilities through wi-fi and mobile options that typically include vendor-run, cloud-based administration interfaces. These connectivity options, additionally known as industrial wi-fi IoT gadgets, enhance the assault floor of OT networks and might present distant attackers with a shortcut into beforehand segmented community segments that comprise vital controllers.

Industrial cybersecurity agency Otorio launched a report this week highlighting the assault vectors these gadgets are vulnerable to together with vulnerabilities the corporate’s researchers present in a number of such merchandise. “Industrial wi-fi IoT gadgets and their cloud-based administration platforms are enticing targets to attackers searching for an preliminary foothold in industrial environments,” the Otorio researchers mentioned of their report. “That is as a result of minimal necessities for exploitation and potential impression.”

A shift in conventional OT community structure

OT safety has typically adopted the Purdue Enterprise Reference Architecture (PERA) mannequin to determine the place to position sturdy entry management layers and do segmentation. This mannequin, which dates to the Nineties, splits enterprise IT and OT networks into six purposeful ranges.

Stage 0 is the gear that instantly influences bodily processes and contains issues like valves, motors, actuators, and sensors.

Stage 1 or the Fundamental Management layer contains subject controllers reminiscent of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and distant terminal items (RTUs) that management these sensors, valves, and actuators based mostly on logic (applications) uploaded to them by engineers.

Stage 2 is the supervisory management layer which incorporates supervisory management and information acquisition (SCADA) programs that acquire and act upon the info acquired from the Stage 1 controllers.

Stage 3 is the positioning management layer and contains programs that instantly help a plant’s operations reminiscent of database servers, utility servers, human-machine interfaces, engineering workstations which are used to program subject controllers and extra. That is usually known as the Management Heart and related to a company’s normal IT enterprise community (Stage 4) by means of a demilitarized zone (DMZ).

It’s on this DMZ the place organizations have centered their perimeter safety efforts to have a powerful segmentation between the IT and OT components of their networks. Extra controls are usually put in place between Stage 3 and Stage 2, to guard subject gadgets from intrusions into the management facilities.

Nonetheless, some organizations can have distant industrial installations that they want to connect with their central management facilities. That is extra widespread in industries reminiscent of fuel and oil the place operators have a number of oil fields and fuel wells in exploitation at completely different places, however it’s additionally prevalent in different industries. These hyperlinks between distant Stage 0-2 gadgets and Stage 3 management programs are sometimes supplied by industrial mobile gateways or industrial Wi-Fi entry factors.

These industrial wi-fi IoT gadgets can converse to subject gadgets over a number of protocols, reminiscent of Modbus and DNP3, after which join again to the group’s management heart by means of the web by utilizing numerous safe communication mechanisms like VPN. Many machine producers additionally present cloud-based administration interfaces for industrial asset homeowners to handle their gadgets remotely.

Vulnerabilities in industrial wi-fi IoT gadgets

These, like some other gadgets related to the web, enhance the assault floor of OT networks and weaken the safety controls historically put in place by organizations, providing a bypass for attackers into the decrease ranges of OT networks. “Using search engines like google and yahoo reminiscent of Shodan, we have now noticed widespread publicity of commercial mobile gateways and routers, making them simply discoverable and probably susceptible to exploitation by menace actors,” the Otorio researchers mentioned of their report. A few of their findings relating to gadgets with internet-reachable internet servers and interfaces embody:




Sierra Wi-fi



Teltonika Networks



InHand Networks


http.html:”Login failed! Examine

your username & password”



http.html:”MOXA OnCell”

ETIC Telecom


http.html:”ETIC TELECOM”

The researchers declare they discovered 24 vulnerabilities within the web-based interfaces of gadgets from three of those distributors — Sierra, InHand, and ETIC — and managed to attain distant code execution on all three.

Whereas many of those flaws are nonetheless within the technique of accountable disclosure, one which has already been patched impacts Sierra Wi-fi AirLink routers and is tracked CVE-2022-46649. It is a command injection vulnerability within the IP logging characteristic of ACEManager, the web-based administration interface of the router, and is a variation of one other flaw discovered by researchers from Talos in 2018 and tracked as CVE-2018-4061.

It seems that the filtering put in place by Sierra to handle CVE-2018-4061 didn’t cowl all exploit situations and researchers from Otorio had been in a position to bypass it. In CVE-2018-4061, attackers might connect extra shell instructions to the tcpdump command executed by the ACEManager iplogging.cgi script by utilizing the -z flag. This flag is supported by the command-line tcpdump utility and is used to move so-called postrotate instructions. Sierra mounted it by implementing a filter that removes any -z flag from the command handed to the iplogging script if it is adopted by an area, tab, type feed or vertical tab after it, which might block, for instance, “tcpdump -z reboot”.

What they missed in accordance with Otorio is that the -z flag would not require any of these characters after it and a command like “tcpdump -zreboot”, would execute simply fantastic and bypass the filtering. This bypass alone would nonetheless restrict the attackers to executing binary information that exist already on the machine, so the researchers developed a solution to conceal their payload in a PCAP (package deal seize) file uploaded to the machine through one other ACEManager characteristic known as iplogging_upload.cgi. This particularly crafted PCAP file may also behave as a shell script when parsed by sh (the shell interpreter) and its parsing and execution could be triggered by utilizing the -z vulnerability in iplogging.cgi.

Cloud administration dangers

Even when these gadgets do not expose their web-based administration interfaces on to the web, which isn’t a safe deployment apply, they’d not be utterly unreachable to distant attackers. That is as a result of most distributors present cloud-based administration platforms that permit machine homeowners to carry out configuration modifications, firmware updates, machine reboots, tunnel visitors over the gadgets, and extra.

The gadgets usually talk with these cloud administration providers utilizing machine-to-machine (M2M) protocols, reminiscent of MQTT, and their implementation might have weaknesses. The Otorio researchers discovered vital vulnerabilities within the cloud platforms of three distributors, permitting attackers to compromise any cloud-managed gadgets remotely with out authentication.

“By focusing on a single vendor cloud-based administration platform, a distant attacker might expose 1000’s of gadgets positioned on completely different networks and sectors,” the researchers mentioned. “The assault floor over the cloud administration platform is vast. It contains exploitation of the online utility (cloud consumer interface), abusing M2M protocols, weak entry management insurance policies, or abusing a weak registration course of.”

The researchers exemplify these dangers with a series of three vulnerabilities they discovered within the “Machine Supervisor” cloud platform of InHand Networks and the firmware of its InRouter gadgets that might have resulted in distant code execution with root privileges on all cloud-managed InRouter gadgets.

First, they regarded on the means through which gadgets discuss to the platform through MQTT and the best way authentication, or “registration,” is achieved and so they discovered that the registration makes use of insufficiently random values and could be brute-forced. In different phrases, two of the vulnerabilities allowed the researchers to power a router to offer its configuration file by impersonating an authenticated connection and write duties to the router reminiscent of altering its hostname.

The third vulnerability was in the best way the router parsed configuration information through MQTT, significantly within the perform used to parse parameters for a characteristic known as auto_ping. The researchers discovered they might allow auto_ping after which concatenate a reverse shell command line to the auto_ping_dst perform and this is able to execute with root privileges on the machine.

Wi-fi assaults on OT networks

Along with the distant assault vectors out there over the web, these gadgets additionally expose Wi-Fi and mobile indicators domestically so any assaults over these applied sciences may very well be used towards them. “Various kinds of native assaults can be utilized towards Wi-Fi and mobile communication channels, ranging from assaults on weak encryptions reminiscent of WEP and downgrade assaults to the susceptible GPRS, all the best way to complicated chipset vulnerabilities which will take time to patch,” the researchers mentioned.

Whereas the researchers did not examine Wi-Fi or mobile baseband modem vulnerabilities, they carried out reconnaissance utilizing WiGLE, a public wi-fi community mapping service that collects details about wi-fi entry factors worldwide. “Leveraging the superior filtering choices, we wrote a Python script scanning for probably high-value industrial or vital infrastructure environments, highlighting ones configured with weak encryption,” the researchers mentioned. “Our scanning uncovered 1000’s of wi-fi gadgets associated to industrial and demanding infrastructure, with a whole lot configured with publicly identified weak encryptions.”

Utilizing this method, the researchers managed to search out gadgets with weak wi-fi encryption deployed in the actual world in manufacturing vegetation, oil fields, electrical substations, and water remedy services. Attackers might use such reconnaissance to establish weak gadgets after which journey on website to take advantage of them.

Mitigating wi-fi IoT machine vulnerabilities

Whereas patching vulnerabilities in such gadgets once they’re discovered is critically necessary due to their privileged place in OT networks and direct entry to vital controllers, extra preventive steps ought to be taken to mitigate dangers. The Otorio researchers have the next suggestions:

  • Disable and keep away from any insecure encryptions (WEP, WAP) and when doable, don’t permit legacy protocols reminiscent of GPRS.
  • Conceal your networks names (SSID).
  • Use MAC-based whitelisting, or use certificates, for related gadgets.
  • Validate administration providers are restricted to the LAN interface solely or are IP whitelisted.
  • Guarantee no default credentials are in use.
  • Be alert on new safety updates in your gadgets.
  • Confirm these providers are disabled if unused (enabled by default on many circumstances).
  • Implement safety options individually (VPN, firewalls), treating visitors from the IIoT as untrusted.

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