Security Risk Found in Software for Critical Controls

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.

Attackers can uncover the password for a device simply by inserting the MAC address, if known, into a simple Perl script that Clarke wrote. MAC addresses for some devices can be learned by doing a search with SHODAN, a search tool that allows users to find internet-connected devices, such as industrial control systems and their components, using simple search terms.

Clarke, who is based in San Francisco, says he discovered the backdoor after purchasing two used RuggedCom devices – an RS900 switch and an RS400 serial server – on eBay for less than $100 and examining the firmware installed on them.

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