Radio-frequency (RF) remote controllers are everywhere: they open your car and your garage, they connect peripherals to your computer. You will also find them widely used in manufacturing and construction. Being able to remotely control large and/or multiple pieces of equipment from one device offers convenience and increased productivity, but remote solutions are often implemented with security as an afterthought, if thought of at all.
We’ve seen how trivial it is to hack a key fob or a wireless keyboard, and it's not much more difficult to hack a controller for large machinery. This week, Trend Micro released a report on how pervasive and vulnerable RF controllers are in the industrial world and they found that garage door openers are more secure than industrial RF controllers. Potential attack vectors might be as simple as a replay attack, where the attacker sniffs the RF packets and sends them back to the machine to gain control—something any script kiddie could do. From there the attacker could modify packets to inject commands.
Another relatively simple attack is called e-stop abuse, where the emergency stop command is replayed to the machine until it causes a denial-of-service (DoS). This could bring an entire factory to a grinding halt or disrupt safety mechanisms, putting workers in danger.
On the other end of the spectrum is a more difficult and more remote attack vector. An advanced hacker could remotely rewrite the firmware on a remote control with their own malicious code in order to gain and maintain access. This impacts all of the vendors tested by Trend Micro that support reprogramming on their devices. Researchers also noted that none of those devices had authentication implemented.
The vulnerabilities discovered have been reported to the manufacturers in the hopes that those companies will take a closer look at the security of their devices. It remains to be seen whether any changes will be made. Physical security is usually very good at manufacturing and construction sites, possibly thwarting a local attack, but it's never one hundred percent. A determined hacker will find a way and industry provides a large attack surface with many possibilities.
• https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/01/15/ even_cranes_are_hackable_trend_micro/