OT:ICEFALL – New Vulnerabilities and Insights on OT Security Design and Patching
Posted: Wednesday, Jun 21

i 3 Table of Contents

OT:ICEFALL – New Vulnerabilities and Insights on OT Security Design and Patching
From KBI

Sydney, AU, 21 June: In Forescout’s final OT:ICEFALL report, Forescout Vedere Labs presents three new vulnerabilities and concludes the project after one year of research following the original disclosure.

The research has yielded three key insights into the current state of OT product security:

  • Vendors still lack a fundamental understanding of secure-by-design. Vedere Labs research shows the continuing prevalence of insecure-by-design practices in OT products and highlights that existing security controls are often broken. Vedere Labs found recurring design issues that demonstrate a lack of understanding of basic security control design, such as plaintext and/or hardcoded credentials, client-side authentication, stateful control on stateless protocols, missing critical steps in authentication, broken algorithms and faulty implementations.
  • Vendors often release low-quality patches. Incomplete patches can lead to the discovery of new vulnerabilities, exemplifying how a bad patch increases risk rather than decreasing it. This situation has previously been acknowledged in IT but is even more critical in OT, where security patches are harder to apply. Patches are often incomplete due to a lack of variant analysis and piecemeal fixes for vulnerabilities, instead of addressing their root causes.
  • Vendors must improve their security testing procedures. The shallow nature of many vulnerabilities found in the project casts doubt on the quality of the security testing these products currently undergo. Notwithstanding, some vendors have a certified software development lifecycle, which leads us to wonder how the bugs were missed by those vendors in the first place.

New OT product vulnerabilities

The table below summarises the new vulnerabilities Vedere Labs are disclosing. CVE-2022-46680 is the last issue found in the original OT:ICEFALL research and was not initially made public at the request of the affected vendor. CVE-2023-1619 and CVE-2023-1620 are new findings on WAGO controllers using the popular CODESYS V2 runtime.

CVE ID Affected devices Description CVSS




CVE-2022-46680 Schneider Electric ION and PowerLogic power meters The ION/TCP protocol transmits a user ID and password in plaintext with every message. This allows an attacker with passive interception capabilities to obtain these credentials and authenticate to the ION/TCP engineering interface as well as SSH and HTTP interfaces to change configuration settings and potentially modify firmware. 8.8 Compromise of credentials
CVE-2023-1619 WAGO 750 controllers An authenticated attacker could send a malformed packet to trigger a device crash. After triggering the vulnerability, the affected device must be manually rebooted to return to its operating state. 4.9 DoS
CVE-2023-1620 WAGO 750 controllers Due to an insufficient session expiration, an authenticated attacker can crash an affected device by sending specific requests after being logged out. After triggering the vulnerability, the affected device must be manually rebooted to return to its operating state. 4.9 DoS

Remediation and mitigation for CVE-2022-46680 are available through the vendor’s advisory.

ION and PowerLogic power meters provide power and energy monitoring in sectors such as manufacturing, energy, water and wastewater systems. WAGO 750 is a line of automation controllers with variants supporting several different protocols, such as Modbus, KNX, Ethernet/IP, PROFIBUS, CANopen, BACnet/IP, DeviceNet and LonWorks, that are used in sectors such as commercial facilities, manufacturing, energy and transportation.

Although these devices are not supposed to be exposed online, Vedere Labs saw between 2,000 and 4,000 potentially unique devices directly accessible when querying Shodan. The most popular exposed protocols are HTTP for WAGO controllers and Telnet for ION meters. WAGO controllers are most popular in Europe, while ION meters are most popular in North America.

On the Forescout Device Cloud – a repository of data from 19 million devices monitored by Forescout appliances – around 500 WAGO controllers and 500 ION power meters. Both types of devices are most commonly seen in manufacturing, but they are also popular in utilities and healthcare, in the latter case mainly for building automation.

“Shift left” to achieve OT security by design

OT:ICEFALL demonstrates the need for tighter scrutiny of, and improvements to, processes related to secure design, patching and testing in OT device vendors.

There are increasing discussions about the need for more vendor liability and better security by design and by default. One of the strategic objectives in the U.S. National Cybersecurity Strategy is to “shift liability for insecure software products and services,” which would entail legislation to establish liability of device vendors for insecure or vulnerable products.

“Regardless of how these regulatory discussions evolve, one way to improve the state of OT security is to ensure that vendors address obvious design flaws such as the ones outlined in the Vedere Labs research. Shifting security efforts to the left will also break the current culture of inefficient and disruptive “piecemeal patching” in OT,” stated Daniel Dos Santos, Head of Security Research at Forescout.

“After all, patches can be risky in OT. Fixing the patching process by ensuring that patches undergo strict security testing, with variant analysis, and are given priority over new product features would automatically decrease the number of new vulnerabilities,” said Dos Santos.

“For asset owners using insecure by design and vulnerable OT devices, deciding when to patch is a challenge. Currently, there is a push to focus on the likelihood of exploitation to drive this decision. Although likelihood is important to consider, it can also change fast, influenced by factors such as attacker motive and publicly available capabilities,” said Dos Santos.

For instance, CVE-2015-5374 was first reported without details in July 2015 before being used in December 2016 as part of Industroyer – but its details could be found in a presentation in May 2016, half a year before the attack. In March 2018, the exploit was integrated into Metasploit, rendering it available to the wide public. Similar Metasploit modules for other protocols and devices have recently been used by opportunistic attackers. Defence-in-depth is designed to deal with this kind of likelihood volatility, but if a defender banks on low likelihood alone, they might not be able to patch rapidly enough if that likelihood suddenly changes.

For all of these reasons, Forescout recommends that asset owners carry out a careful, consequence-driven analysis of which vulnerabilities to patch, in which assets, rather than either blindly following vendor guidance or relying exclusively on compensating controls.

The Production Team
The KBI Production Team is a staff of specialist technology professionals with a detailed understanding across much of cybersecurity and emerging technology. With many decades of collective industry experience, as well as expertise in marketing & communications, we bring news and analysis of the cybersecurity industry.
Share This