Research spotlights unpatched vulnerabilities in Sierra Wireless routers

Forescout Technologies, Inc.

Thursday, 07 December, 2023

Research spotlights unpatched vulnerabilities in Sierra Wireless routers

Forescout has released a report titled SIERRA:21 – Living on the Edge, an analysis of 21 newly discovered vulnerabilities within OT/IoT routers and open-source software components. The report — produced by Forescout Research – Vedere Labs, a team dedicated to uncovering vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure — emphasises the continued risk to critical infrastructure and sheds light on possible mitigations.

SIERRA:21 – Living on the Edge features research into Sierra Wireless AirLink cellular routers and some of its open-source components, such as TinyXML and OpenDNS. Sierra Wireless routers are popular — an open database of Wi-Fi networks shows 245,000 networks worldwide running Sierra Wireless for a variety of applications. For example, Sierra Wireless routers are used for police vehicles connecting to a central network management system or to stream surveillance video, in manufacturing plants for industrial asset monitoring, in healthcare facilities providing temporary connectivity and to manage electric vehicle charging stations. The 21 new vulnerabilities have the potential to stop vital communications that could impact everyday life.

The research found that there are 245,000 networks worldwide running Sierra Wireless routers for a variety of applications, highlighting that 86,000 vulnerable routers are still exposed online. Concerningly, researchers found that Australia is currently third in the world for the number of exposed devices (3853), and less than 10% of these routers are confirmed to be patched against known previous vulnerabilities found since 2019. Among the 21 vulnerabilities, the research also uncovered that nine have high severity.

Forescout Research further finds:

  • The attack surface is expansive with 86,000 vulnerable routers still exposed online. Less than 10% of these routers are confirmed to be patched against known previous vulnerabilities found since 2019.
  • Regions with the highest number of exposed devices include:
    • 68,605 devices in The United States
    • 5580 devices in Canada
    • 3853 devices in Australia
    • 2329 devices in France
    • 1001 devices in Thailand
  • Among the 21 vulnerabilities, one has critical severity (CVSS score 9.6), nine have high severity and 11 have medium severity. These vulnerabilities allow attackers to steal credentials, take control of a router by injecting malicious code, persist on the device and use it as an initial access point into critical networks.
  • Patching can’t fix everything. 90% of devices exposing a specific management interface have reached end of life, meaning they cannot be further patched.
  • It’s an uphill battle to secure supply chain components. Open-source software elements continue to go unchecked and increase the attack surface of critical devices, leading to vulnerabilities that may be hard for organisations to track and mitigate.
     

“We are raising the alarm today because there remain thousands of OT/IoT devices representing an increased attack surface that requires attention,” said Elisa Constante, VP of Research, Forescout Research – Vedere Labs. “Vulnerabilities impacting critical infrastructure are like an open window for bad actors in every community. State-sponsored actors are developing custom malware to use routers for persistence and espionage. Cybercriminals are also leveraging routers and related infrastructure for residential proxies and to recruit into botnets. Our discoveries reaffirm the need for heightened awareness of the OT/IoT edge devices that are so often neglected.”

Sierra Wireless and OpenDNS have issued patches for the identified vulnerabilities. TinyXML is an abandoned open source project, so the upstream vulnerabilities will not be fixed and must be addressed downstream.

For more information, read the blog: Forescout Vedere Labs discloses 21 new vulnerabilities affecting OT/IoT routers.

The full report, SIERRA:21 – Living on the Edge, can be downloaded here.

Image credit: iStock.com/TU IS

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