Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reader Comment: Basecamp Communications Devices

It took me a while, but I finally got a chance to ‘moderate’ a response to this weekend’s blog post on the Basecamp disclosure process from Dale Peterson; one of the drawbacks to traveling cross country by car is that you can’t do much work on the internet. Dale explains the reasoning for including the Koyo ECOM100 and notes that the Schweitzer alert was for a wireless communications device, the SEL 2032 Communications Processor.

As Dale points out, vulnerabilities in the communications nodes between the PLCs and the control system are essentially major vulnerabilities for the control system and the PLC; they can allow protected access to both. As such they were clearly fair game for analysis.

The only point that I was trying to make about the ECOM100 being a ‘ringer’ (and the same point should have been made about the Schweitzer device) is that the PLC vendors had clear public notice about what was going to happen with the research into their devices. Since they should have known about the disclosed vulnerabilities (especially the ones that were specifically designed into the systems), they have no cause to complain about the ‘uncoordinated disclosures’. They are the ones that put their customers at risk not Project Basecamp.

Unless the Project Basecamp team provided direct notification to Koyo and Schweitzer about their products being included in the evaluation, the same blanket dismissal of concerns does not apply. On the other hand, the process industry really does need to understand that these types of devices (and I assume that the same types of vulnerabilities will show up in many if not most of these types of devices currently in use) may provide a broad avenue of attack on control systems. This clearly needs to be recognized and addressed.

So with the caveat that the following does not apply if they received advanced notification of inclusion in the Project Basecamp investigation, I think that both Koyo and Schweitzer were poorly treated by an uncoordinated disclosure of their vulnerabilities. More importantly their customers may have been unduly put at risk by not allowing these two manufacturers a chance to correct the system defects before the vulnerabilities were made public.

Twenty lashes with an al dente noodle for each of the uncoordinated disclosures for these two manufacturers (again with an immediate pardon if they received advanced notification of inclusion in the process) to Dale Peterson for his unsportsmanlike conduct. On the other hand, I think that it is time to look at all of the devices and systems that we employ to control critical processes, so a small quiet kudo to Dale as a salve to his wounds for his efforts (and of course the hard work of the entire Project Basecamp team and supporters) to bring formal attention to this problem.

No comments:

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */