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ABB Patches Password Flaws in Substation Automation Tool

Switzerland-based power and automation technologies provider ABB has released a software update for one of its substation automation products to address several vulnerabilities related to the storage of passwords.

Switzerland-based power and automation technologies provider ABB has released a software update for one of its substation automation products to address several vulnerabilities related to the storage of passwords.

The affected product is PCM600, a protection and control intelligent electronic device (IED) manager. The tool, designed for ABB’s Relion protection and control IEDs in transmission and distribution applications, is used in the energy sector worldwide.

Ilya Karpov from Positive Technologies, a researcher who has been credited for identifying numerous vulnerabilities in industrial control systems (ICS), discovered that the PCM600 tool is plagued by four low and medium severity password-related issues.

The expert found that the main application password is stored in a configuration file as a hash. The problem is that the hash can be easily cracked, allowing an attacker to obtain the password (CVE-2016-4511).

Another issue is that the main application password is stored insecurely after it’s changed (CVE-2016-4516). Karpov also discovered that authentication credentials for PCM600 and the OPC Server IEC61850 are stored insecurely (CVE-2016-4524 and CVE-2016-4527).

Related: Registration for 2016 ICS Cyber Security Conference Now Open

In an advisory published on Tuesday, ICS-CERT pointed out that while the flaws can be exploited by an attacker with low skill, exploitation is only possible if the attacker has local access to the computer running the ABB application.

The vulnerabilities affect PCM600 version 2.6 and prior, and they have been addressed by the vendor with the release of version 2.7. ABB advises customers to apply the update at their earliest convenience and follow security best practices to protect critical networks against external attacks.

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The list of recommendations includes separating control systems from other networks via a firewall, and ensuring that these systems cannot be directly accessed from the Internet. The company also advises customers to scan portable computers and removable storage media before connecting them to a control system.

Earlier this year, ICS-CERT published an advisory detailing a high severity vulnerability in ABB’s Panel Builder 800 engineering and configuration tool.

Related Reading: Researchers Publish Default Passwords for ICS Products

Related Reading: PLC Worms Can Pose Serious Threat to Industrial Networks

Written By

Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a managing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

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