“Open sesame”: Industrial network gear hackable with the right username

(credit: Sean Gallagher)

This week, two separate security alerts have revealed major holes in devices from Moxa, an industrial automation networking company. In one case, attackers could potentially send commands to a device’s operating system by using them as a username in a login attempt. In another, the private key for a Web server used to manage network devices could be retrieved through an HTTP GET request.

The first vulnerability, in Moxa’s AWK-3131A 802.11n industrial wireless networking gear—which can act as an access point, bridge, or client device—was revealed by Cisco Talos on April 3. Because of the way user authentication for multiple features works—leveraging the “loginutils” tool of the Busybox operating system—the usernames from failed login attempts are processed in such a way that they could be leveraged to inject command-line instructions by using punctuation to separate the command from the rest of the command-line output.

“Exploitation of this vulnerability has been confirmed via Telnet, SSH, and the local console port,” Patrick DeSantis and Dave McDaniel of Cisco Talos wrote in their report. “It is suspected that the web application may also be vulnerable as it relies on loginutils and examination of the iw_event_user binary reveals ‘fail’ messages for ‘WEB,’ ‘TELNET,’ and ‘SSH.’”

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