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Security researchers have discovered a vulnerability in Schneider Electric’s systems that could give attackers free reign over IT and operational technology (OT) systems.
The remote code execution vulnerability affects two Schneider Electric applications heavily used in manufacturing, oil and gas, water, automation and wind and solar power facilities, according to researchers at cyber exposure firm Tenable.
If exploited, the vulnerability could give cyber criminals complete control of the underlying system, the researchers warn. Attackers would also be able to use the compromised system to move laterally through the network, exposing additional systems to attack, including human-machine interface (HMI) clients.
In a worst case scenario, attackers could use the vulnerability to disrupt or even cripple plant operations, the researchers said, urging all organisations that use Schneider Electric’s InduSoft Web Studio and InTouch Machine Edition software to ensure their systems are patched up to date.
InduSoft Web Studio is an automation tool used to develop HMIs, supervisory control and data acquisition (Scada) systems and embedded instrumentation solutions that connect OT with the internet or corporate intranets.
InTouch Machine Edition is a scalable HMI client. This software is commonly deployed across several heavy industries, including manufacturing, oil and gas and automotive.
“A remote attacker without credentials can use this vulnerability to execute arbitrary code on vulnerable systems, potentially leading to full compromise of the InduSoft Web Studio or InTouch Machine Edition server machine,” the researchers warned.
With the growing adoption of distributed and remote monitoring in industrial environments, OT and IT are converging, the researchers said, adding that as OT becomes increasingly connected, these safety-critical systems are increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks.
News of this discovery comes just weeks after the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC,) the US Department of Homeland Security and the FBI issued a joint warning about Russian state-sponsored attacks against critical infrastructure.
As underscored by the joint warning, OT systems have become high-value targets for cyber criminals worldwide, which presents major challenges to human safety as well as ongoing productivity, uptime and efficiency.
At the same time, the researchers aid deployment of cyber security measures lag behind the digitisation of critical infrastructure, resulting in an “acute” inability to understand and represent cyber security risk accurately at any given time, creating a “massive” cyber exposure gap.
“Digital transformation has made its way to critical infrastructure, connecting once-isolated systems to the outside world,” said Dave Cole, chief product officer at Tenable.
“This Schneider Electric vulnerability is particularly concerning because of the potential access it grants cyber criminals looking to do serious damage to mission-critical systems that quite literally power our communities.
“Tenable Research is focused on assessing, analysing and reducing the industry’s overall cyber exposure across the modern computing environment – be it cloud, IT, IoT [internet of things] or OT. Solving this growing problem requires us to come together as an industry, and we commend Schneider Electric on the speed with which they released a patch to remediate this critical issue.”
Tenable Research worked with Schneider Electric to disclose the vulnerability responsibly. Schneider Electric has released patches for both affected systems. Given the widespread prevalence and market share of the affected software in the OT space, urgent attention and response from affected users is required, the researchers said.