The evolution of wireless technologies has allowed industrial automation and control systems (IACS) to become strategic assets for companies that rely on processing plants and facilities in industries such as energy production, oil, gas, water, utilities, refining, and petrochemical distribution and processing. Effective wireless sensor networks have enabled these companies to reduce implementation, maintenance, and equipment costs and enhance personal safety by enabling new topologies for remote monitoring and administration in hazardous locations.
However, the manner in which sensor networks handle and control cryptographic keys is very different from the way in which they are handled in traditional business networks. Sensor networks involve large numbers of sensor nodes with limited hardware capabilities, so the distribution and revocation of keys is not a trivial task.
In this presentation, we review the most commonly implemented key distribution schemes, their weaknesses, and how vendors can more effectively align their designs with key distribution solutions. We also demonstrate some attacks that exploit key distribution vulnerabilities, which we recently discovered in every wireless device developed over the past few years by three leading industrial wireless automation solution providers. These devices are widely used by many energy, oil, water, nuclear, natural gas, and refined petroleum companies.
An untrusted user or group within a 40-mile range could read from and inject data into these devices using radio frequency (RF) transceivers. A remotely and wirelessly exploitable memory corruption bug could disable all the sensor nodes and forever shut down an entire facility. When sensors and transmitters are attacked, remote sensor measurements on which critical decisions are made can be modified. This can lead to unexpected, harmful, and dangerous consequences.