Security Experts:

Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?



CNC Machines Vulnerable to Hijacking, Data Theft, Damaging Cyberattacks

Researchers at cybersecurity firm Trend Micro have shown that the computer numerical control (CNC) machines present in many modern manufacturing facilities are vulnerable to hacker attacks.

Researchers at cybersecurity firm Trend Micro have shown that the computer numerical control (CNC) machines present in many modern manufacturing facilities are vulnerable to hacker attacks.

Trend Micro is presenting the research this week at SecurityWeek’s 2022 ICS Cyber Security Conference in Atlanta, which can also be joined online via SecurityWeek’s virtual event platform. Registration for the event is still open.

CNC machines can be programmed to carry out a wide range of tasks with a high level of efficiency, consistency and accuracy. They include mills, lathes, plasma cutters, electric discharge machines, water jet cutters, and punch presses.

CNC machines are increasingly complex, enabling users to operate them remotely and extend their functionality by installing add-ins. This increasing complexity means they can be increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Trend Micro researchers have analyzed CNC products from Haas, Okuma, Heidenhain and Fanuc, which are used by manufacturing organizations worldwide. The analysis showed that the machines provided by each of these vendors are vulnerable to roughly a dozen types of attacks.

The researchers demonstrated that an attacker could cause damage or disruption, they can hijack a machine, or steal valuable intellectual property. Each of these scenarios could have a significant financial impact on an organization.

For instance, a hacker could cause damage or disruption to a CNC machine or the item the machine is working on by altering some of the device’s geometry or the controller’s program. The attacker can cause visible damage, or they can make minor changes that result in a defective product.

CNC machine hack

Hackers could also disrupt the manufacturing process by triggering alarms that cause the machine to stop operating until a human intervenes. These alarms are designed to stop the machine in case of software or hardware faults, but an attacker could also trigger an alarm.

A threat actor who has access to the CNC machine and its associated systems could launch ransomware attacks, where files are encrypted or legitimate users are prevented from accessing the user interface.

Another risk is related to data theft. These machines are often tasked with making parts for which the design can be highly valuable. An attacker could steal the program run by the targeted machine and then easily reverse engineer it to obtain the code.

CNC program hack

In addition, CNC controllers can store valuable information related to production, which can also be useful to threat actors specializing in corporate espionage.

These types of attacks can be prevented, Trend Micro says, by using industrial intrusion detection and prevention systems, segmenting networks, correctly configuring CNC machines, and ensuring that they are always up to date.

The cybersecurity firm started notifying impacted CNC vendors last year and says they have all taken steps to reduce the risk of malicious attacks, including through patches and new security features.

Related: Realistic Factory Honeypot Shows Threats Faced by Industrial Organizations

Related: Vulnerabilities in Protocol Gateways Can Facilitate Attacks on Industrial Systems

Related: Legacy Programming Languages Pose Serious Risks to Industrial Robots

Related: Old RF Protocols Expose Cranes to Remote Hacker Attacks

Written By

Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing 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.

Click to comment

Daily Briefing Newsletter

Subscribe to the SecurityWeek Email Briefing to stay informed on the latest threats, trends, and technology, along with insightful columns from industry experts.

Join this webinar to learn best practices that organizations can use to improve both their resilience to new threats and their response times to incidents.


Join this live webinar as we explore the potential security threats that can arise when third parties are granted access to a sensitive data or systems.


Expert Insights

Related Content


Less than a week after announcing that it would suspended service indefinitely due to a conflict with an (at the time) unnamed security researcher...

Risk Management

The supply chain threat is directly linked to attack surface management, but the supply chain must be known and understood before it can be...


Apple has released updates for macOS, iOS and Safari and they all include a WebKit patch for a zero-day vulnerability tracked as CVE-2023-23529.

Application Security

Drupal released updates that resolve four vulnerabilities in Drupal core and three plugins.


Patch Tuesday: Microsoft warns vulnerability (CVE-2023-23397) could lead to exploitation before an email is viewed in the Preview Pane.

Cloud Security

VMware vRealize Log Insight vulnerability allows an unauthenticated attacker to take full control of a target system.

IoT Security

Lexmark warns of a remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability impacting over 120 printer models, for which PoC code has been published.

Application Security

A CSRF vulnerability in the source control management (SCM) service Kudu could be exploited to achieve remote code execution in multiple Azure services.