Industrial Control Systems Cybersecurity News #2 – Radiology of the cybersecurity level of the healthcare sector


Last year, the National Health Service England (NHS) faced its most important cybersecurity crisis due to the Wannacry ransomware attack. In October 2017, the National Audit Office (NAO) published a report showing that at least 34% of trusts in England were disrupted, and around 19,494 patient appointments canceled including canceled patient operations. This was mainly due to the fact that the information system managing the appointments, the patients’ records or test results were infected by the ransomware.

However, the report points out that medical devices such as MRI scanners (that have Windows XP embedded within them) were also locked by the ransomware. Only 1,220 devices were infected representing 1% of the overall amount, because several equipments were disconnected to avoid the ransomware propagation. So why the healthcare sector suffered from such an attack and how come the ransomware spread that easily?

Healthcare cybersecurity: Low maturity level

The NAO report highlighted the challenges that the NHS had to face to tackle the attack. These challenges seem similar to the ones that several industries and manufacturers have been facing showing that an analogy of the healthcare information systems and the industrial control systems (ICS) have the same weaknesses.

Indeed, both ICS and Health Information Systems (HIS)face the same cybersecurity challenges, among them:

  • The wide use of legacy devices and operating systems (such as Windows XP);
  • The length of the window of exposure of these systems (the window of exposure is the time between the vulnerability disclosure and the patching of the system): the vendors support or the quality guidelines and regulations may represent obstacles for a fast patching (a recent survey conducted on 3000 security professionals working for healthcare and pharmaceutical organizations, show that 57% of the respondents had experienced at least a data breach which was conducted after the exploitation of a vulnerability for which a patch had been previously released);
  • Critical and unsecure devices directly connected to the Internet exposing the medical network. For example, McAfee published a report explaining how they exploited an unsecure and connected Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS – device that stores and shares images coming from imaging devices such as scanners) to use personal medical data;
  • Lack of security by design: several organizations and researchers have been alerting on several flows affecting medical devices such as pacemakers (Cyber-flaw affects 745,000 pacemakers – BBC), insulin pumps (J&J warns diabetic patients: Insulin pump vulnerable to hacking – Reuters) or infusion pumps (Black hat conference [PDF])

A growing threat on the healthcare sector

The low cybersecurity maturity level of the healthcare sector combined with the continuous interest of some actors on personal data or life threatening made the threat skyrocket these past few years. Indeed, several cybersecurity companies have been alerting on a growing number of cyber threat actors who are targeting healthcare sector, for example:

  • In the last newsletter was reported that a US hospital was hit by Samsam ransomware in January 2018. Samsam is only one of the numerous ransomware that targeted hospitals among them Locky;
  • In March 2018, Kaspersky researchers discovered that a Chinese-speaking group used PlugX malware (remote access tool which has been used previously by several groups since 2012) in pharmaceutical organizations for stealing information;
  • In April 2018, Symantec identified a new attack group named Orangeworm. This group has been targeting healthcare sector companies (equipments manufactures, pharmaceutical, health organizations) for several years. Orangeworm has been using a backdoor called Kwampirs which collects data in the infected systems. This malware propagates easily in Windows XP devices.

Protecting against

In order to curb the number of security incidents in the healthcare sector, several measures can be, and in some cases have already been, implemented among them:

  • Design of a global cybersecurity governance by implementing a cybersecurity policy;
  • Conduction of awareness campaigns towards the hospital staff on the cybersecurity threats;
  • Implementation of patch management procedure in order to reduce the window of exposure of the system (a combined work with the vendors and the regulation organizations may be required so the patching covers the largest amount of device as possible);
  • Network segregation into several levels of protection matching the level of criticality (medical devices should be highly protected).
Several governmental agencies and institutions have been publishing reports and guidelines in order to help healthcare organizations and the medical devices suppliers in securing their network or providing more secure medical devices. You will find here after some of the documents:

>>Latest news

Aerial tramway with security holes, April 19th

Two white hackers found the control system of a new aerial tramway in the internet without any security measures. According to them, the commands were sent unencrypted, the authentication wasn’t provided and the web application was vulnerable to cross-site scritping and HTTP header injection attacks. Link to the article

Patch Plugs More Than a Dozen Vulnerabilities Affecting Industrial Secure Router Series

Tripwire, April 16th

Cisco Talos published a report revealing several vulnerabilities affecting the Moxa EDR-810 industrial secure router with firewall/NAT/VPN and manager layer 2 switch functions. This router sets perimetric security for critical assets such as pumping/treatment systems in water stations, Distributed Control Systems (DCS) in oil and gas stations … Many of the flaws received a CVSS score of 8.8. Moxa released an updated version of the firmware. Link to the article

Advisory: Hostile state actors compromising UK organisations with focus on engineering and industrial control companies

NCSC, April 5th

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) published an advisory revealing that several ongoing attacks have been targeting mainly engineering and industrial control companies since March 2017. The attacks are involving the harvesting of credentials using strategic web compromises and spear-phishing. The advisory also refers to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FBI joint Technical Alert (see below for more information). Link to the advisory

Sentryo Provides Anomaly Detection Technology to Siemens to Address the Cybersecurity Challenges of industrial infrastructures

Sentryo, April

Siemens and Sentryo signed an agreement in which Siemens AG will provide Sentryo ICS CyberVision solution to its clients among Siemens products and services. Sentryo’s solution is an asset management and anomaly detection tool designed for Industrial Control Systems. Link to the press release [FR][PDF]

ISA announces newly published ISA/IEC 62443-4-1-2018 security standard, March 28th

The international Society of Automation released the Part 4-1 of the ISA/IEC 62443 standard. This part tackles the Product Security Development Life-Cycle Requirements. “It defines a secure development life-cycle for developing and maintaining secure products.” This includes several concepts such as security by design, patch management and product end-of-life. Link to the article

Schneider Electric Launches Cybersecurity Virtual Academy

ISS Source, March 27th

Schneider Electric launched the Cybersecurity Virtual Academy which is a website that provides several materials to raise the awareness of the cybersecurity risks in the industrial control systems. Link to the article

Threat landscape for industrial automation systems in H2 2017

Kaspersky lab, March 26th

Kaspersky has published a report on the threat landscape over the industrial control systems during the second semester of 2017. In the report, Kaspersky analyses the vulnerabilities discovered by the ICS-CERT and the ones identified by Kaspersky Lab ICS Cert. Here are some figures given in the report:

  • 322 vulnerabilities were identified by ICS-CERT and more than 50% of them are impacting the energy sector;
  • 3,3% of industrial automation system computers were attacked by cryptocurrency mining programs during the period from February 2017 to January 2018;
  • 10,8% of all ICS systems were attacked by botnet agents during 2017. The mains sources of botnet agent attacks on ICS systems in 2017 were internet, removable media and email messages;

The Kaspersky figures show also a certain decrease on the number of attacks on ICS systems between 2016 and 2017. This can be explained by the fact that more and more companies are training their employees and began implementing simple cybersecurity measures. Link to the report

Draft NIST Special Publication 800-160 Volume 2, Systems Security Engineering: Cyber Resiliency Considerations for the Engineering of Trustworthy Secure Systems

NIST, March 21st

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a public draft of the NIST SP 800-160 Volume 2, Systems Security Engineering: Cyber Resiliency Considerations for the engineering of Trustworthy Secure Systems. This document aims to provide guidelines to organizations on how to apply cyber resiliency concepts during the engineering of systems. These guidelines may be applied on new systems, modification of systems, Critical infrastructure systems … Link to the release | Link to the document [PDF]

Russian Government Cyber Activity Targeting Energy and Other Critical Infrastructure Sectors

US-CERT, March 15th

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) published a joint Technical Alert in which give details on how the Russian government targeted several American organizations operating in the energy, nuclear, water, commercial facilities aviation and critical manufacturing sectors (DHS and FBI have already warned about this threat in another alert published in October). The alert analyzed the attacks using the Lockheed Cyber Kill Chain (stage1:reconnaissance, stage 2: weaponization, stage 3: delivery, stage 4: exploitation, stage 5: installation, stage 6: command & control, stage 7: actions and objectives). The threat actors after gaining access to their victims information system, they conducted reconnaissance operations within the network. They mainly focused on identifying and browsing file servers. They viewed information and files regarding Industrial Control Systems (ICS) or Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. Link to the alert

‘Cyber event’ disrupts power in Mich. – but don’t blame hackers

E&E News, March 8th

An employee of a public utility that provides electricity in Michigan (Consumers Energy) inadvertently cut the electricity to about 15000 consumers. During an “internal testing” the employee overstepped his authority in a control center leading to the outage. The utility the event as a “cyber event” and reported it to the department of Energy even tought the outage had nothing to do with a malware or cyber attack. Since the event, the company adjusted the access controls. Link to the news

A Qualitative View of 2017 Across vulnerabilities, threats, and lessons learned in hunting and incident response

Dragos, March

Dragos published 3 reports in which they reveal their findings and analysis regarding the industrial control systems vulnerabilities during 2017, the industrial threat landscape incident response and hunting lessons. Some of the results of these reports are the following:

  •  “64% of 2017 ICS-related vulnerability patches don’t fully eliminate the risk because the components were insecure by design”;
  • 5 activity groups are working on developing tools and malwares (as Crashoverride that attacked the Ukrainian electric grid in 2016);
  • The main infection vectors are: unprotected interconnectivity with IT systems, removable media, unprotected interfacility connection and phishing.

Link to the Vulnerabilities report [PDF]

Link to the threat activity groups report [PDF]

Link to the hunting and responding report [PDF]

Siemens report: Mideast’s oil and gas sector needs readiness boost as cyber risk grows

Siemens, March

A recent report published by Siemens shows that the Middle East facing more and more attacks targeting Operational Technology (OT) (according to the report 30% of the attacks are targeting OT). The report gives the results of a survey on 176 individuals working in the Middle East who are responsible for overseeing the cybersecurity of their organisations. Here are some figures:

  • “75% of organizations have suffered at least one security compromise that resulted in the loss of confidential information or disruption to operations in the OT environment over the past 12 months”;
  • “68% of respondents say the top cyber security threat is the negligent of careless insider”;
  • “31% of respondents say their organization’s industrial control systems” protection and security are adequate”.

Link to the press release

NERC Full Notice of Penalty regarding Unidentified Registered Entity

NERC, February 28th

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) files a Notice of Penalty of two million seven hundred thousand dollars ($ 2,700,000), in accordance with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), regarding noncompliance by an Unidentified Registered Entity (URE).

Indeed, a third-party URE contractor failed to comply with the information protection program and copied very sensitive data, including records associated with Critical Computer Assets (CCA), from the URE environment on its own unsecured environment. While the data was on the contractor’s network, a subset of data was available online without the need to enter a username or password for a total of 70 days.

This exposed information increases the risk of a malicious

attacker gaining both physical and remote access to URE’s systems and access to internal CCAs. Link to the article

>>Main ICS vulnerabilities

Date CVSS v3 score Equipment Vulnerability Link to the advisory
Apr. 17th 9.8 Schneider Electric InduSoft Web Studio and InTouch Machine Edition Stack-based Buffer Overflow Link
Apr. 17th 10.0 Schneider Electric Triconex Tricon Improper Restriction of Operations within the Bounds of a Memory Buffer Link
Apr. 17th 9.8 Rockwell Automation Stratix Services Router Improper Input Validation, Improper Restriction of Operations within the Bounds of a Memory Buffer, Use of Externally-Controlled Format String Link
Apr. 17th 9.8 Rockwell Automation Stratix and ArmorStratix Switches Improper Input Validation, Resource Management Errors, Improper Restriction of Operations within the Bounds of a Memory Buffer, Use of Externally-Controlled Format String Link
Apr. 17th 9.8 Rockwell Automation Stratix Industrial Managed Ethernet Switch Improper Input Validation, Resource Management Errors, 7PK – Errors, Improper Restriction of Operations within the Bounds of a Memory Buffer, Use of Externally-Controlled Format String Link
Apr. 5th


10.0 Rockwell Automation MicroLogix Improper Authentication Link
Apr. 3rd


9.8 Siemens Building Technologies Products (Update A) Stack-based Buffer Overflows, Security Features, Improper Restriction of Operations within the Bounds of a Memory Buffer, NULL Pointer Dereference, XML Entity Expansion, Heap-based Buffer Overflow, Improper Access Control Link
Mar. 29th


9.8 Siemens TIM 1531 IRC Missing Authentication for Critical Function Link
Mar. 20th


9.8 Geutebruck IP Cameras Improper Authentication, SQL Injection, Cross-Site Request Forgery, Improper Access Control, Server-Side Request Forgery, Cross-site Scripting Link
Mar. 13th


9.3 OSIsoft PI Web API Permissions, Privileges, and Access Controls; Cross-site Scripting Link
Mar. 1st 9.8 Moxa OnCell G3100-HSPA Series Reliance on Cookies without Validation and Integrity Checking, Improper Handling of Length Parameter Inconsistency, NULL Pointer Dereference Link

>>Upcoming ICS events

Jun. 30-1

Nuit du Hack

Paris, France

Jun. 18

IEEE Workshop on Smart Industries (IEEE SIW)

Taormina, Italy

Jun. 15

European Maritime Cyber Risk Management Summit

London, UK

May. 22-23

Annual Nuclear Industrial Control Cybersecurity and Resilience Conference (ICCS)

Warrington, UK

May. 3-4

Global Cyber Security in Healthcare & Pharma Summit

London, UK

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