In our previous installments of the Leaking Beeps research series, we have discussed that both healthcare and industrial control systems have been sending clear text messages via the pager communications protocols POCSAG and FLEX. We were surprised to see pages containing sensitive patient information when we looked into the use of pagers in the healthcare sector. We were just as alarmed to see the number of automation systems in industrial environments that were utilizing POCSAG and FLEX as wireless communications paths. This gave a lot of information away to a potential attacker who could use them in a future attack.Read More
Industrial Control Systems (ICS) are a hot topic in the security industry today, thanks to the prevalence of software that is often riddled with security flaws and legacy protocols that were designed without any type of security. Many of these systems were designed in a different time, when the world was quite different. ICS systems used to be isolated, Internet access was rare and expensive, and hacking knowledge was not as widespread as it is today. It would be very difficult for a programmer to have foreseen some of the security issues that have now come about. As a result, however, this often translates to cases where solutions are developed to get the most out of the system while maintaining a cost-conscious mindset. As a result, there are cases where software and protocols that were never meant to be part of an ICS system end up as part of such a system.Read More
Today, the Trend Micro Forward-Looking Threat Research team released the paper Leaking Beeps: Unencrypted Pager Messages in the Healthcare Industry, our research about a weakness we identified in pager technology. If you are concerned about keeping your health information private, I would highly recommend you read through it. I, for one, was not expecting the findings we made. Pagers are secure, right? We’ve used them for decades, they are hard to monitor, and that’s why some of our most trusted industries use them, including the healthcare sector.
Nope. Wrong. All it took to see hospital information in clear text from hundreds of miles (or kilometers if you are a non-US person like me) away is an SDR software and a USB dongle. Frankly, I was stunned. The problem with pagers—like many other technologies—is that they were designed and developed in a bygone era, and very few people go back to see if current technologies easily break the trust we had in these older ones or not (by virtue of making ease of monitoring—accidental or intentional—something easily done by a common person).Read More