Cybersecurity

Important Advisory on Rockwell Automation Select Communication Modules

By TFH,

Published on Jul 13, 2023   —   3 min read

Unpacking the Role and Importance of Rockwell Automation's 1756 Series Communication Modules in Industrial Automation

Introduction

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has recently issued an advisory concerning select communication modules from Rockwell Automation. The advisory, released on July 12, 2023, under the code ICSA-23-193-01, highlights critical vulnerabilities in these modules that could potentially be exploited remotely, with low attack complexity.

Understanding Rockwell Automation Communication Modules

Rockwell Automation's 1756 series communication modules are integral components of the ControlLogix platform, widely used in various industrial automation and control systems. These modules serve as the communication bridge between different devices and systems within an industrial environment. Here's a closer look at what these systems are used for:

  • Process Automation: In process industries such as oil and gas, chemical, and power generation, these modules play a crucial role. They are responsible for controlling and monitoring various processes, handling tasks like temperature regulation, pressure control, and flow control.
  • Manufacturing Automation: The 1756 series modules are also a staple in manufacturing settings. They control assembly lines, robotic devices, and other automated systems, aiding in machine control, product tracking, and quality assurance.
  • Building Automation: These modules find their use in building automation systems as well. They control HVAC systems, lighting, and security systems, ensuring optimal and efficient operation of these critical building functions.
  • Data Acquisition and Monitoring: One of the key features of these modules is their ability to gather data from various sensors and devices. This allows for real-time monitoring and data logging, which is crucial for predictive maintenance, process optimization, and troubleshooting.

It's important to note that the vulnerabilities identified in the CISA advisory could potentially allow unauthorized access to these systems. Such breaches could lead to disruptions in industrial processes, data theft, or other malicious activities. Therefore, it's crucial for organizations using these modules to apply the recommended mitigations promptly.

The Vulnerabilities

The vulnerabilities identified are classified as Out-of-bounds Write. These vulnerabilities, if successfully exploited, could allow malicious actors to gain remote access to the running memory of the module and perform malicious activities. The affected Rockwell Automation products include a wide range of 1756 series modules, with various versions susceptible to these vulnerabilities.

Two specific vulnerabilities have been identified and assigned CVE identifiers. CVE-2023-3595, with a CVSS v3 base score of 9.8, could allow a malicious user to perform remote code execution with persistence on the target system through maliciously crafted CIP messages. This includes the ability to modify, deny, and exfiltrate data passing through the device.

The second vulnerability, CVE-2023-3596, with a CVSS v3 base score of 7.5, could allow a malicious user to cause a denial-of-service condition by asserting the target system through maliciously crafted CIP messages.

Mitigation Measures

Rockwell Automation has released updated versions to fix these vulnerabilities, which can be addressed by performing a standard firmware update. Customers are strongly encouraged to implement the risk mitigations provided and to combine these with security best practices to employ multiple strategies simultaneously.

In addition to updating firmware, organizations are advised to properly segment networks to ensure ICS/SCADA networks are properly segmented within the process structure as well as from the Internet and other non-essential networks. Implementing detection signatures to monitor and detect anomalous Common Industrial Protocol (CIP) packets to Rockwell Automation devices is also recommended.

Conclusion

The recent advisory from CISA underscores the critical importance of maintaining up-to-date firmware and implementing robust cybersecurity practices to protect against potential threats. As of now, no known public exploits specifically target these vulnerabilities. However, the potential impact of such exploits could be significant, given the central role these modules play in various industrial processes. Therefore, organizations are urged to remain vigilant and proactive in their cybersecurity efforts, ensuring the integrity and reliability of their industrial automation systems. For more information, please refer to the official advisory on the CISA website.

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