Cybersecurity researchers have disclosed details of a new vulnerability in a system used across oil and gas organizations that could be exploited by an attacker to inject and execute arbitrary code.
“Attackers can exploit this flaw to gain root access on an ABB flow computer, read and write files, and remotely execute code,” industrial security company Claroty said in a report shared with The Hacker News.
ABB, a Swedish-Swiss industrial automation firm, has since released firmware updates as of July 14, 2022, following responsible disclosure.
Flow computers are special-purpose electronic instruments used by petrochemical manufacturers to interpret data from flow meters and calculate and record the volume of substances such as natural gas, crude oils, and other hydrocarbon fluids at a specific point in time.
These gas measurements are critical not only when it comes to process safety, but are also used as inputs when bulk liquid or gas products change hands between parties, making it imperative that the flow readings are accurately captured.
In a nutshell, the vulnerability identified by Claroty is a path traversal flaw that exists in ABB’s implementation of its proprietary Totalflow TCP protocol, which is utilized to remotely configure the computers.
The issue, specifically, concerns a feature that allows for importing and exporting the configuration files, enabling an attacker to leverage an authentication bypass issue to get past the security passcode barrier and upload arbitrary files.
By taking advantage of the shortcoming, a remote malicious actor could seize control of the devices and hamper their ability to properly record oil and gas flow rates.
“A successful exploit of this issue could impede a company’s ability to bill customers, forcing a disruption of services, similar to the consequences suffered by Colonial Pipeline following its 2021 ransomware attack,” Claroty researcher Vera Mens said.