Mobile App Flaws of SCADA ICS Systems Could Allow Hackers To Target Critical Infrastructure

Pierluigi Paganini January 13, 2018

IOACTIVE researchers warn that critical infrastructure mobile applications are being developed without secure coding compliance that could allow hackers to target SCADA Systems.

In a report released today, by IOACTIVE, researchers’ advice that critical infrastructure mobile applications are being developed without secure coding compliance that could allow hackers to target Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Industrial Control Systems.

SCADA-ICS stands for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition Industrial Control System, that represents the industrial automated systems operating on critical infrastructure. These systems are responsible for the control and operation of critical services like clean water and energy respectively. Researchers of IOACTIVE released a report analyzing the impact on the security of SCADA-ICS systems operating connected to the internet of things (IoT) and mobile applications.

The report states that mobile applications are present in many ICS segments and can be divided into two groups, Local (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) and remote applications (Internet, VPN), which are exposed to three types of attacks such as Unauthorized physical access to the device or “virtual” access to device data, Communication channel compromise (MiTM), Application compromise.

SCADA-ICS infrastructure

Considering these attacks mobile SCADA applications can lead to Directly/indirectly influencing an industrial process or industrial network infrastructure and compromising an operator to unwillingly perform a harmful action on the system.

The research was conducted based on OWASP 2016 and analyzed 34 vendors that released the app on Google Play Store. The mobile app analyzed revealed that 147 security issues were identified related to secure coding programming that would allow code tampering.

The researchers noticed that hackers could gain remote control to smartphones to further launch attacks on ICS vulnerable app used on hardware and software. Also, the researchers pointed out that there was an increase of 16 vulnerabilities per application.

Regarding the vulnerabilities, researchers found out that insecure authorization was present with some apps failing to include any form of authentication. Other vulnerabilities live reverse engineering were present due to the absence of code obfuscation. insecure data storage and unintended data leakage were present which could allow hackers to access the app or data related to ‘Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition’ system.

The security of society is at stake since these new vulnerabilities pose a great threat, even more than the damage caused by the 2016 Ukrainian attack. The report recommends to app developers to consider secure coding in the development planning due to the impacts on society that these flaws represent.

About the author Luis Nakamoto

Luis Nakamoto is a Computer Science student of Cryptology and a enthusiastic of information security having participated in groups like Comissão Especial de Direito Digital e Compliance (OAB/SP) and CCBS (Consciência Cibernética Brasil) as a researcher in new technologies related to ethical hacking, forensics and reverse engineering. Also a prolific and compulsive writer participating as a Redactor to Portal Tic from Sebrae Nacional.


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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition, hacking)

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