Defending Industrial Ethernet Switches Is Not Easy, But Doable

Attacks and vulnerabilities against ICS and SCADA can be detected and monitored if operational folks know their network infrastructure.

Rutrell Yasin

August 7, 2015

2 Min Read
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A team of researchers who found a slew of vulnerabilities across five models of Industrial Ethernet Switches said that the SCADA community can monitor for and respond to vulnerabilities in their network devices and do not have to necessarily depend on vendors to do the defense.

The team found 11 vulnerabilities ranging from cross-site scripting attacks to default key manipulation across five families of network devices from four different vendors -- Garrettcom, GE, Opengear, and Siemens.

Many in the Industrial Control System (ICS) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) community assume that their massively vulnerable infrastructure can only be fixed by the vendors, according to Éireann Leverett, who works with the University of Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies. 

We need vendors to do better. We want them to do better,” Leverett said. “But we as a community, especially in the ICS and SCADA community don’t need vendors to do defense.  A lot of the attacks and vulnerabilities being demonstrated, you can easily monitor for them and easily detect and respond to them.  It is really about empowering the community versus feeling helpless,” he said.

“A lot of these switches have configurations that you can turn on or modify and that will strengthen your security. A lot of work can be done by yourself without harassing the vendor to say, ‘Look we need this fixed,” Colin Cassady, a security consultant with IOActive, said.

Cassady, Leverett, and Robert Lee, co-founder of Dragos Security LLC, presented their findings during a press briefing and later in more detail during a session titled Switches Get Stitches.

Industrial Control Systems have become an area of increasing concern for cybersecurity as the world has become more connected and information technology and operational technology are more intertwined.  The Industrial Ethernet Switches are used in environments such as substations, factories, refineries, ports, or other homes of industrial automation.  If attackers are able to compromise these switches, malicious firmware could be inserted to manipulate live processes such as the shutting down of a plant or a nuclear reactor.

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About the Author(s)

Rutrell Yasin

Business Technology Writer, Tech Writers Bureau

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