At the recently held Blackhat USA 2017 conference, the Ukrainian security researcher Marina Krotofil presented an attack concept, in which the physical elements of a process were selectively stressed by targeted hacking in order to wear them out and cause physical damage in the system.
Thomas Brandstetter of Limes Security supported her in the practical demonstration of her attack as an “evil hacker” by manipulating the positions of valves in a pumping system in order to create a cavitation in the system. As a result of the production of this hollow space, bubbles suddenly formed. Due to these bubbles mechanical elements of the system, such as the pump, were over-strained beyond their normal operation limits, resulting in defects in the long run.
The inclusion of process characteristics into targeted attacks on industrial plants has impressively been demonstrated earlier by the malware Stuxnet, where gas centrifuges beyond were operated beyond their usual parameters, thereby damaging and destroying them.
The joint presentation of “EVIL BUBBLES OR HOW TO DELIVER ATTACK PAYLOAD VIA THE PHYSICS OF THE PROCESS” once again underscores the competence of Limes Security in the area of industrial attack research, as well as the excellent networking with leading security experts in this area.