Hackers In Vegas: Power Plant Controllers Hacked, Prisons Cracked, Batteries Attacked, Insulin Pumps Hijacked

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Black Hat and Defcon are like a double-Christmas for hackers: Over the course of five days, the two security conference unleash a firehose of flashy research that's unlike any other, a boatload of tools and techniques that grab the attention of malicious hackers and those defending again them in equal measure.

Here's a rundown of the stories you (and I) may have missed.

Several critical vulnerabilities were revealed in Siemens' Simatic Step7 software, which manages the devices that control everything from power plants to mass transit systems, by Dillon Beresford, a researcher with security firm NSS Labs. Beresford had previously delayed his talk to give Siemens more time to fix the flaws, and even at Black Hat didn't share all the details of his attack. But he's also criticized Siemens for downplaying the problem, and claims that the attack could be repeated by even low-resource hackers.

Prison door systems could be hacked with vulnerabilities similar to those used by the Stuxnet worm, according to a group of researchers. Security consultant John Strauchs, working with a hacker who goes by the name  Dora the Scada Explorer, created an exploit that targets prison systems and could potentially open doors on command or suppress alarms.

Medical devices have been hacked by security researchers  before. But this time was personal: Jerome Radcliffe, a diabetic and security analyst, showed that an attacker would be able to take control of his insulin pump to turn it off wirelessly, potentially causing illness or even death.

Mac-hacker Charlie Miller, who has risen to prominence by exposing and exploiting numerous security flaws in practically every new Apple product, debuted a technique to hack an unlikely weakness in the company's laptops: their batteries. As I previewed last month, the attack can reprogram the firmware on the chip that regulates power to those lithium ion chunks, killing the battery instantly or potentially hiding undetectable malware on it. Miller released a tool called Caulkgun designed to prevent that attack by changing the default password on Apple's batteries, which can be downloaded here.

Android's prominence as a target for hackers has risen over the last year as quickly as its market share. Two teams of researchers, in a case of great hackers thinking alike, presented the same vulnerability in Android, a fundamental architectural problem that allows malicious apps to "pop up" over other apps to mimic them and steal credentials or simply show annoying ads. Nicholas Percoco and Sean Schulte from the security firm Trustwave created a proof of concept for the attack, which Riley Hassell and co-presenter Shane Macaulay dubbed "App Phishing." The researchers presented other Android vulnerabilities including flaws in the encryption its apps use to connect to the Internet and the ability of apps to hijack each others' functions. Another team took aim at Google's other new operating system, Chrome OS, showing that it's not as impervious to malware as Google claimed upon its release.

For the rest of Forbes' coverage from Black Hat and Defcon, see:

Android App Turns Smartphones Into Mobile Hacking Machines

Defcon Lockpickers Open Card-And-Code Government Locks In Seconds

Google Researcher Exposes Flaws In Sophos Software, Slams Antivirus Industry

Researcher Announces N00ter, A Tool For Catching Net Neutrality Cheats

Microsoft Offers $200,000 Prize For Silver Bullet Against Hackers

Bitsquatting: Machine-Garbled Internet Connections

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