Posted: October 26, 2017 1:06 PM

Security Vulnerabilities Detected in Maritime Vessel Comms Platform

SEATTLE — IOActive Inc. has released a new advisory documenting critical cyber-security vulnerabilities affecting Stratos Global’s AmosConnect communication shipboard platform, IOActive announced in an Oct. 26 release. Stratos Global, an Inmarsat company, is the leading provider of maritime communications services in the world and used by thousands of ship vessels globally.

According to the International Chamber of Shipping, about 90 percent of world trade is carried by the international shipping industry, which frequently relies upon AmosConnect for its mobile satellite communication capabilities. AmosConnect supports narrowband satellite communications and integrates vessel and shore-­based office applications such as email, fax, telex, GSM text, interoffice communication, and access for mobile personnel into a single messaging system.

The flaws IOActive discovered include blind SQL injection in a login form, and a backdoor account that provides full system privileges that could allow remote unauthenticated attackers to execute arbitrary code on the AmosConnect server. If compromised, this flaw can be leveraged to gain unauthorized network access to sensitive information stored in the AmosConnect server and potentially open access to other connected systems or networks.

The research was authored by IOActive’s principal security consultant, Mario Ballano.

IOActive informed Inmarsat of the vulnerabilities in October 2016, and completed the disclosure process in July. Inmarsat has since discontinued the 8.0 version of the platform and has recommended that customers revert back to AmosConnect 7.0 or switch to an email solution from one of their approved partners.

“We are aware of the IOActive report, but it is important to note AmosConnect 8 (AC8) is no longer in service,” Inmarsat said in a statement.

“Inmarsat had begun a process to retire AmosConnect 8 from our portfolio prior to IOActive’s report and, in 2016, we communicated to our customers that the service would be terminated in July 2017.

“When IOActive brought the potential vulnerability to our attention, early in 2017, and despite the product reaching end of life, Inmarsat issued a security patch that was applied to AC8 to greatly reduce the risk potentially posed. We also removed the ability for users to download and activate AC8 from our public website. 

“Inmarsat’s central server no longer accepts connections from AmosConnect 8 email clients, so customers cannot use this software even if they wished to,” according to the statement.

“It is important to note that this vulnerability would have been very difficult to exploit as it would require direct access to the shipboard PC that ran the AC8 email client. This could only be done by direct physical access to the PC, which would require an intruder to gain access to the ship and then to the computer. While remote access was deemed to be a remote possibility as this would have been blocked by Inmarsat’s shoreside firewalls.”

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