PLC HackingProject Basecamp is a research effort by Digital Bond and a team of volunteer researchers to highlight and demonstrate the fragility and insecurity of most SCADA and DCS field devices, such as PLC’s and RTU’s.

The goal of Project Basecamp is to make the risk of these fragile and insecure devices so apparent and easy to demonstrate that a decade of inaction will end. SCADA and DCS owner/operators will demand a secure and robust PLC, and this will drive vendors to finally provide a product worthy of being deployed in the critical infrastructure.

The Reason: A Firesheep Moment for PLC’s

See Dale Peterson’s Basecamp Introduction Video for motivation and goals of Basecamp and a Firesheep Moment for PLC’s.

Everyone knows PLC’s are vulnerable — or so we have heard for ten years now since the 9/11 attacks focused attention on DCS and SCADA security. Not only do they lack basic security features, they are also fragile. Warnings abound about the dangers of even running a port scan on a PLC. Yet even though “everyone knows” there has been little or no progress on developing even the option of purchasing a secure and robust PLC.

After this lost decade, Digital Bond decided to stop trying the same failed approach and the result is Project Basecamp. We looked for parallel situations in security where a serious problem was known, not addressed for a long time, and then something triggered a change. The best example we found is Firesheep.

In 2007/2008 there were numerous presentations at security events showing how a twitter, facebook, gmail or other HTTP session could be hijacked because the cookies were not encrypted. It got some buzz at a security events and technical web sites, but no action to address the vulnerability.

In October of 2010 Eric Butler created Firesheep, an easy to use Firefox extension that hijacked an HTTP session. Anyone who could use a browser could hijack Facebook or Twitter sessions in a coffee shop. Shortly after that the vendors took action and made mandatory HTTPS an option and eventually the default.

Project Basecamp is attempting to be a Firesheep Moment for PLC’s. The team has, not surprisingly, found many vulnerabilities in the PLC’s, but perhaps more importantly have identified “insecure by design” issues that are actually much easier to leverage to affect the availability and integrity of a process.

The key to making this a Firesheep Moment for PLC’s is providing tools so any engineer, IT type, security professional or anyone with a bit of computer skill can demonstrate just how fragile and vulnerable these PLC’s are. It’s beyond, PLC’s are vulnerable. Basecamp provides the tools to show an executive just how easy it is to take down the SCADA or DCS.

The Basecamp Team

Reid Wightman of Digital Bond leads the Basecamp team. He performed the work on two of the devices and coordinated the results with the rest of the research team. The other Project Basecamp team members are:

The Results

In the words of  Reid Wightman, “it was a bloodbath”. As everyone expected, the PLC’s crashed, had typical vulnerabilities such as overflows and XSS, and had product features that could be used against the device. You can watch the 90-minute Project Basecamp from S4.

The Products

We have created individual pages summarizing the results for the Basecamp Products tested to date.

The Tools

Digital Bond’s approach with all research tools is to add capabilities to the market leading tools to maximize the use and adoption of the tools. To that end the tools include:

Metasploit Modules

Rapid7′s Metasploit is the most widely used exploit framework in the world, and it has a free version and a paid version. The Basecamp Metasploit Modules provide an easy way for anyone to demonstrate how fragile and vulnerable the PLC’s are. The final, released Metasploit modules will be available through Rapid7 in the same manner as any other Metasploit module.

Project Basecamp has a Metasploit Modules page with a list of all of the modules and links to any modules not yet released by Rapid7.

Nessus Plugins

Tenable Network Security’s Nessus Vulnerability scanner is the most widely used scanner in the world. Digital Bond has developed Bandolier Security Audit Files and SCADA plugins in the past for Nessus.

A set of Basecamp related plugins are released and more are under development. The Basecamp plugins help enumerate or identify the PLC’s and then check for default credentials and other vulnerable configuration settings.