Gas station’s tank monitoring systems open to cyber attacks

Darkreading.com brought news about a project to set up a free honeypot tool for monitoring attacks against gas tank monitoring systems. Researchers have found attacks against gas tank monitoring systems at several locations in the United States (read about it @darkreading). Interestingly, many of these systems for monitoring tank levels etc., are internet facing with no protection whatsoever – not even passwords. Attacks have so far only been of the cyberpunk type – changing a product’s name and the like; no intelligent attacks have been observed.

If we dwell on this situation a bit – we have to consider who would be interested in attacking gas station chains at a SCADA level? Obviously, if you can somehow halt the operation of all gas stations in a country, you do limit people’s mobility. In addition to that, you obviously harm the gas station’s business. Two of the most obvious attack motivations may thus be “sabotage against the nation as a whole” as part of a larger campaign, and pure criminal activity by using for example ransomware to halt gasoline sales until a ransom is payed. The latter would perhaps be the most likely of the two threats.

So – what should the gas stations do? Obviously, there are some technical barriers missing here when the system is completely open and facing the internet. The immediate solution would be to protect all network traffic by VPN tunneling, and to require a password for accessing the SCADA interfaces. Hopefully this will be done soon. The worrying aspect of this is that gas stations are not the only installation type with very weak security – there are many potential targets for black hats that are very easy to reach. The more connected our world becomes through integration of #IoT into our lives – the more important basic security measures become. Hopefully this will be realized not only by equipment vendors, but also by consumers.

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