Cybersecurity is in the news more often than violence or politics, its seems. Last week I received two important pieces of news—both reported below. The first details vulnerabilities found in VxWorks—the most widely used Real-Time Operating System forming the foundation for process control. The other news concerns a survey of executives that shows continued cyber attacks on industrial systems.
Zero Day Vulnerabilities
Enterprise IoT security company, Armis, announced the discovery of 11 zero-day vulnerabilities, 6 critical, that affect Wind River® VxWorks versions since version 6.5, that include the IPnet stack, collectively known as “URGENT/11.” Updated releases have been provided. URGENT/11 does not impact versions of the product designed for certification, such as VxWorks 653 and VxWorks Cert Edition.
VxWorks, the leading real-time operating system (RTOS), is used in more than two billion devices across industrial, medical and enterprise environments such as mission-critical systems including SCADA, elevator and industrial controllers, patient monitors and MRI machines, as well as firewalls, routers, satellite modems, VOIP phones and printers. If exploited, URGENT/11 could allow a complete takeover of the device and cause disruption on a scale similar to what resulted from the EternalBlue vulnerability.
“VxWorks is the most widely used operating system you may never have heard of,” said Ben Seri, vice president of research at Armis. “A wide variety of industries rely on VxWorks to run their critical devices in their daily operations—from healthcare to manufacturing and even security businesses. This is why URGENT/11 is so important. The potential for compromise of critical devices and equipment especially in manufacturing and healthcare is a big concern.”
URGENT/11 includes six Remote Code Execution (RCE) vulnerabilities that could give an attacker full control over a targeted device, via unauthenticated network packets. Any connected device leveraging VxWorks that includes the IPnet stack is affected by at least one of the discovered vulnerabilities. They include some devices that are located at the perimeter of organizational networks that are internet-facing such as modems, routers and firewalls. Any vulnerability in such a device may enable an attacker to breach networks directly from the internet. Devices protected by perimeter security measures also can be vulnerable once the devices create TCP connections to the internet. These connections can be hijacked and used to trigger the discovered TCP vulnerabilities, allowing attackers to take over the device and access the internal network.
“URGENT/11 could allow attackers to remotely exploit and take over mission critical devices, bypassing traditional perimeter and device security. Every business with these devices needs to ensure they are protected,” said Yevgeny Dibrov, CEO and co-founder of Armis. “The vulnerabilities in these unmanaged and IoT devices can be leveraged to manipulate data, disrupt physical world equipment, and put people’s lives at risk.”
VxWorks is pervasive and trusted due to its rigorous and high-achieving safety certifications and its high degree of reliability and real-time accuracy. In its 32-year history, only 13 Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) have been listed by MITRE as affecting VxWorks. Armis discovered unusually low-level vulnerabilities within the IPnet stack affecting these specific VxWorks versions released in the last 13 years, from versions 6.5 and above. These are the most severe vulnerabilities found in VxWorks to date.
The IPnet networking stack was acquired by Wind River through its acquisition of Interpeak in 2006. Prior to the acquisition, the stack was broadly licensed to and deployed by a number of real-time operating system vendors.
Wind River has been working in collaboration with Armis on this matter, and customers were notified and issued patches to address the vulnerabilities last month. To the best of both companies knowledge, there is no indication the URGENT/11 vulnerabilities have been exploited.
Organizations deploying devices with VxWorks should patch impacted devices immediately. More information can be found in the Wind River Security Alert posted on the company’s Security Center.
Operational Downtime is the Most Common Impact of IoT-Focused Cyberattacks
As connectivity in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) promises to transform the manufacturing and production industry, new research by Irdeto underlines the importance of cybersecurity, revealing that 79% of manufacturing and production organizations surveyed have experienced an IoT-focused cyberattack in the past year. This finding demonstrates the importance of cybersecurity as IoT devices proliferate across the critical infrastructure of these organizations, to ensure that the potential business benefits of IoT can be realized safely.
The Irdeto Global Connected Industries Cybersecurity Survey of 220 security decision makers in organizations in this sector (700 respondents in total) found that of the organizations that were hit by an attack, operational downtime (47%), compromised customer data (35%) and compromised end-user safety (33%) were the most common impacts. These findings clearly point to a direct bearing on revenue as well as health safety challenges presented by unsecured IoT devices.
The research also suggests that these organizations are aware of where the key cybersecurity vulnerabilities exist with their infrastructure, but do not necessarily have everything they need to address them. The most prominent vulnerabilities within manufacturing and production organizations were in mobile devices and apps (46%). This was followed by the IT network (41%) and the software used by the organization (40%) – which if referring to the OT equipment software which runs of the factory floor, could be hugely problematic.
However, despite this awareness, 92% of respondents feel their organization does not have everything it needs to address cybersecurity challenges. 44% state that their organization needs to implement a more robust security strategy. This is followed by a need for additional expertise/skills within the organization to address all aspects of cybersecurity (42%) and a need for more effective cybersecurity tools (37%).
This is compounded by the finding that, in the manufacturing sector, a total of 91% of manufacturers and 96% of users of IoT devices state that the cybersecurity of the IoT devices that they manufacture or use could be improved either to a great extent or to some extent. Failure to address these challenges could prove costly with the average financial impact as a result of an IoT-focused cyberattack in the manufacturing space identified as more than $280,000 USD, according to the survey.
“While the benefits of IoT may be in abundance in manufacturing and industrial environments, this connectivity also increases the attack surface and these findings demonstrate that there is an awareness of the cybersecurity challenges and impacts within the industry, but potentially a need to rethink strategies to mitigate the impact of potential cyberattacks,” said Mark Hearn, Director of IoT Security and Business Development, Irdeto. “Whatever the nature of the threat, industrial and manufacturing organizations must understand the scope of their current risk, ask hard cybersecurity-centric questions to vendors, and work with trusted advisors to safely embrace connectivity in their manufacturing process.”
As organizations fight to keep pace with the cybersecurity challenges in the manufacturing sector, they do have several security measures in place, but have often not implemented enough layers into their security strategy. 21% of organizations surveyed do not currently have software protection technologies implemented, while 39% do not have mobile app protection implemented, despite identifying mobile devices and apps as the greatest source of vulnerabilities. In addition, only 50% make security part of the product design lifecycle process.
However, the majority of organizations that don’t already have these measures in place, state that they plan to implement them in the next year. In addition, 99% of the manufacturing organizations surveyed agree that a security solution should be an enabler of new business models, not just a cost. These findings suggest that attitudes towards IoT security are changing for the better.
“As the manufacturing industry embraces IoT technology it’s clear that there are many cybersecurity challenges that must be addressed, but the industry attitude towards cybersecurity is on the right track,” added Steeve Huin, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Business Development and Marketing, Irdeto. “As the scope of connected manufacturing grows, the opportunities and the risks are magnified and it is imperative that organizations upskill and implement robust cybersecurity strategies to ensure they mitigate the threat and safely take advantage of the benefits that IoT can bring.”