Thousands of U.S. gas stations exposed to Internet attacks

Over 5,000 tank gauges that are used to monitor fuel levels and potential spills are accessible from the Internet without a password

Over 5,000 devices used by gas stations in the U.S. to monitor their fuel tank levels can be manipulated from the Internet by malicious attackers.

These devices, known as automated tank gauges (ATGs), are also used to trigger alarms in case of problems with the tanks, such as fuel spills.

"An attacker with access to the serial port interface of an ATG may be able to shut down the station by spoofing the reported fuel level, generating false alarms, and locking the monitoring service out of the system," said HD Moore, the chief research officer at security firm Rapid7, in a blog post. "Tank gauge malfunctions are considered a serious issue due to the regulatory and safety issues that may apply."

Earlier this month, Moore ran a scan to detect ATGs that are connected to the Internet through serial port servers that map ATG serial interfaces to the Internet-accessible TCP port 10001. This is a common set-up used by ATG owners to monitor the devices remotely.

"Approximately 5,800 ATGs were found to be exposed to the Internet without a password," Moore said. "Over 5,300 of these ATGs are located in the United States, which works out to about 3 percent of the approximately 150,000 fueling stations in the country."

Rapid7 decided to run the scan after being alerted of the problem by Jack Chadowitz, the founder of Kachoolie, a division of BostonBase that provides secure tank gauge access services.

Chadowitz had already developed an online service where ATG owners, particularly those using "a Gilbarco/Veeder Root TCP/IP card or a TCP/IP to serial converter such as those commonly available from Digi or Lantronix," can check if they are at risk.

Some systems provide the capability to protect serial interfaces with a password, but this functionality is not commonly enabled, according to Moore.

"Operators should consider using a VPN [virtual private network] gateway or other dedicated hardware interface to connect their ATGs with their monitoring service," the researcher said. "Less-secure alternatives include applying source IP address filters or setting a password on each serial port."

The discovery comes at a time of increased scrutiny of Internet-connected devices, especially old ones used in critical infrastructure and industrial facilities whose communication protocols were designed long ago with little concern for security.

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags securityphysical securityintrusionAccess control and authenticationExploits / vulnerabilitiesRapid7KachoolieBostonBase

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?