Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?



Researchers Show How Hackers Can Target ICS via Barcode Scanners

Industrial control systems (ICS) can be hacked through barcode scanners, researchers at cybersecurity services company IOActive said on Tuesday.

Industrial control systems (ICS) can be hacked through barcode scanners, researchers at cybersecurity services company IOActive said on Tuesday.

Hackers previously demonstrated that keystrokes can be remotely injected via an industrial barcode scanner into the computer the scanner is connected to, which could result in the computer getting compromised.

IOActive researchers have also been looking at industrial barcode scanners and part of their research, which they described in a blog post published on Tuesday, focuses on the scanners used by airport baggage handling systems. However, the experts warned that the same attack vector can be exploited in multiple ways and against other sectors as well.SICK barcode scanner vulnerability

This part of the research focused on products made by SICK, a Germany-based provider of sensors for industrial automation applications, specifically on the firm’s SICK CLV65X fixed mount barcode scanners, which are usually deployed in airports for automatic baggage handling systems.

These devices can scan “profile programming” barcodes, which involve custom CODE128 barcodes. Scanning such a barcode can result in changes to the settings of a device, and this is done directly without the need for a host computer.

The problem is that this process does not involve any authentication mechanism, allowing an attacker to create a malicious barcode that, when scanned by a vulnerable scanner, causes the connected device to become inoperable, or changes its settings in an effort to facilitate further attacks.

Learn more about threats to industrial systems at SecurityWeek’s 2020 ICS Cyber Security Conferenceand SecurityWeek’s Security Summits virtual event series

IOActive researchers used reverse engineering to figure out the logic used to generate profile programming barcodes and confirmed that they are not tied to specific devices.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

IOActive reported its findings to SICK in late February 2020 and the vendor released an advisory on May 31.

“An attacker with the ability to present special barcodes under his control to the affected devices, with enabled ‘profile programming’, is able to change the configuration without any authentication required,” SICK said in its advisory. “This could lead to an impact on availability, integrity and confidentiality.”

SICK has advised customers to disable the profile programming feature, which is enabled by default. The company’s advisory contains detailed instructions on how the feature can be disabled.

Related: Researchers Demo Remote Hacking of Industrial Cobots

Related: Millions of Devices Using LoRaWAN Exposed to Hacker Attacks

Related: Researchers See Improvements in Vehicle Cybersecurity

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.

SecurityWeek’s Threat Detection and Incident Response Summit brings together security practitioners from around the world to share war stories on breaches, APT attacks and threat intelligence.


Securityweek’s CISO Forum will address issues and challenges that are top of mind for today’s security leaders and what the future looks like as chief defenders of the enterprise.


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...

Data Breaches

OpenAI has confirmed a ChatGPT data breach on the same day a security firm reported seeing the use of a component affected by an...

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...


The latest Chrome update brings patches for eight vulnerabilities, including seven reported by external researchers.


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


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.

IoT Security

A group of seven security researchers have discovered numerous vulnerabilities in vehicles from 16 car makers, including bugs that allowed them to control car...

CISO Strategy

Cybersecurity-related risk is a top concern, so boards need to know they have the proper oversight in place. Even as first-timers, successful CISOs make...