Researchers from the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania and NASA have discovered a critical security vulnerability in network technology used in spacecraft, aircraft, power generation systems, and control systems. industry.
News portal of UoM Michigan News report (opens in a new tab) The vulnerability abuses a network protocol and hardware system known as time-enabled ethernet or TTE.
This system allows critical equipment, such as life support systems, to coexist on the same network hardware as less critical devices, such as passenger Wi-Fi or data collection system.
TTE has been considered secure for over a decade, as two types of network traffic are never allowed to interfere with each other on the same endpoint. It was originally established to reduce network costs while improving efficiency, the researchers say.
However, the researchers have now managed to circumvent this barrier with an attack called PCspooF, discussing it extensively as part of the paper. (opens in a new tab) titled “PCspooF: Time-Enabled Ethernet Security Compromise”.
The team demonstrated the vulnerability using real NASA hardware to simulate the Asteroid Redirection Test, specifically the stage where a capsule had to dock on a spacecraft.
When the capsule attempted to dock, the attack combined important and unimportant communications together, disrupting messages passing through the system and creating a cascading effect. In the end, the capsule went astray and missed the dock completely.
Baris Kasikci, Morris Wellman Faculty Development Assistant, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, pointed to the risks. “If someone were to carry out this attack on a real spaceflight mission, what would be the damage?”
However, to successfully execute a PCSpooF attack, an attacker needs to install a small, malicious device on the network, which means that remote attacks cannot be carried out.
Another good news is that the vulnerability can be remedied relatively easily by replacing plain Ethernet with fiber optic cable or installing an optical isolator between untrusted switches and devices.
According to the researchers, that would eliminate the risk of electromagnetic interference, although it would affect performance.