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#1 uperkurk  Icon User is offline

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If it has software, can it be compromised?

Posted 04 July 2014 - 07:00 AM

I know the topic is old but I was just re-reading over the Iran / Stuxnet-Flame hacks that wrecked Irans nuclear centrifuges. It got me thinking, can ANYTHING be hacked aslong as there is code involved somewhere? US drones, nuclear submarines, satellites, fighter jets etc etc? Obviously these systems are not open to the internet but these "devices" have code built into them which means they can be hacked if the user has physical access to the device?

In the case of the Iranian nuclear centrifuges, a compromised laptop was connected to the computer system of the centrifuges which in turn allowed the virus to spread to that system, how it sent that information back I have no idea.

Anyways, don't worry I'm not in possession of fighter jets or nuclear submarines lol it's purely just out of curiosity. Of course there are hardware hacks too but for this question I'm simply refering to code execution.

tl;dr - If a device has code on it, can it be programmed to do something it shouldn't?

Thanks.

This post has been edited by uperkurk: 04 July 2014 - 07:01 AM


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#2 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: If it has software, can it be compromised?

Posted 04 July 2014 - 09:58 AM

In theory, yes.
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#3 uperkurk  Icon User is offline

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Re: If it has software, can it be compromised?

Posted 04 July 2014 - 10:08 AM

View Postmodi123_1, on 04 July 2014 - 09:58 AM, said:

In theory, yes.


Could you perhaps give me some sort of idea about the limitations, problems you might face and the technicality of such a thing?
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#4 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: If it has software, can it be compromised?

Posted 04 July 2014 - 10:13 AM

Of what thing? I am not sure if I follow what you are asking. Info sec and assurance is a pretty broad topic.

Posted Image

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#5 uperkurk  Icon User is offline

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Re: If it has software, can it be compromised?

Posted 04 July 2014 - 11:10 AM

View Postmodi123_1, on 04 July 2014 - 10:13 AM, said:

Of what thing? I am not sure if I follow what you are asking. Info sec and assurance is a pretty broad topic.

Sorry if I'm not being clear, I'll use a iphone as an example. So an iphones operating system is called Darwin which is written in C/C++ and most phone user do not run anti virus software on their phones and phones in general don't have firewalls so why do virusus not exist for mobile phones?

An iphone with its wifi on is pretty much open to the www so why can't virus' spread through iphones? My guess for the limitations / technicality is that you would need to find an exploit in the iOS and write a C/C++ virus which could somehow take advantage of that exploit by sending that user a message with the virus code attached, the phone receives the virus code and executes it.

I probably have a lot wrong here but the same thing applies to a fighter jets computer or a submarines nuclear reactor or something. They all obey commands written into the O/S that runs that hardware. Find an exploit on a peice of software on that O/S and you have your entry, by why are computers hacked left, right and centre but other devices are barely hacked at all?

Surely anything with a usb port or sd card is vulnerable to external code being deployed on the device through an interface like a usb or sd card?
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#6 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: If it has software, can it be compromised?

Posted 04 July 2014 - 11:57 AM

Quote

so why do virusus not exist for mobile phones?

It's the concept of the walled garden. They've built a really secure entry point into the phone and to access services. In the effort to increase security they removed functionality and some ease of use from the triangle.

Quote

The simplest way to avoid a virus on your iPhone is to accept the fact that you may not be able to do everything that you ever wanted on your phone. While some view Apple's guidelines as too restrictive, it does keep you protected from viruses that have plagued other companies.

http://apple.answers...s-on-the-iphone
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#7 uperkurk  Icon User is offline

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Re: If it has software, can it be compromised?

Posted 04 July 2014 - 12:13 PM

View Postmodi123_1, on 04 July 2014 - 11:57 AM, said:

Quote

so why do virusus not exist for mobile phones?

It's the concept of the walled garden. They've built a really secure entry point into the phone and to access services. In the effort to increase security they removed functionality and some ease of use from the triangle.

Quote

The simplest way to avoid a virus on your iPhone is to accept the fact that you may not be able to do everything that you ever wanted on your phone. While some view Apple's guidelines as too restrictive, it does keep you protected from viruses that have plagued other companies.

http://apple.answers...s-on-the-iphone


Thanks for the reply. I do apologise if this seems like somewhat of a stupid or pointless post but I'm just really interested. For example consider this picture from the BAE website Posted Image
and the software you see on the screen is something called Subamrine Command System Next Generation which takes all the sensory information the ships equipment picks up and displays it in real time to the screens. Obviously the computers that are running that software have to be running some sort of operating system like windows or linux?

Here is a quote from the BAE Systems website "Drawing on combat management systems developments for the UK Royal Navy’s Type 45 Destroyer and Astute Submarine, Subamrine Command System Next Generation transfers proven applications into a Windows environment running on commercial off the shelf computers" So this is basically saying that at the front of the technology is basically just a windows operating system which is exactly what happened in the Iran hack.

They infected the windows system which was then allowed to travel across onto the nuclear centrifuges network. In this case the network we're talking about is called the Subamrine Command System Next Generation. Basically by the sounds of it, it's only the PC's that have protection against virus and not that actual internal system?

Afterall there has to be some data being sent to and from the windows pc and the submarines command system? It's really annoying because I want to read up about this stuff but obviously it's very difficult to find information. I've just never really understood the link between a PC running a classic OS like windows or linux can communicate with a system that isn't running any sort of O/S... or is it?

This post has been edited by uperkurk: 04 July 2014 - 12:16 PM

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#8 no2pencil  Icon User is online

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Re: If it has software, can it be compromised?

Posted 04 July 2014 - 01:03 PM

Though it's possible you are too young to remember the Speak & Spell, but I'm simply going to submit this as my answer. Anything can be used in ways in which it wasn't intended.
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#9 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: If it has software, can it be compromised?

Posted 04 July 2014 - 01:36 PM

.. or this.

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#10 astonecipher  Icon User is offline

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Re: If it has software, can it be compromised?

Posted 04 July 2014 - 04:03 PM

Anything that runs software can be modified provided there is a group that wants to, can gain access, has the knowledge, and the time. Part of it comes to, what would you gain by putting in the effort? And smartphones do have viruses as well.
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#11 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

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Re: If it has software, can it be compromised?

Posted 04 July 2014 - 05:19 PM

In a nutshell, any computer that is sufficiently powerful to run interesting programs can be compromised. This is actually one of the earliest results in computer science, since it's really a direct consequence of Turing's work, and is fundamentally related to the Halting Problem. Basically, it's impossible to know what an arbitrary program will do by programmatic inspection. This is a bald statement and there's a lot more to understand here about what you can know about a program through inspection, but the upshot is that it will always be possible, in principle to compromise a piece of software if you can get access to it.

If you want some in-depth discussion of malware, you might learn something from this course. There isn't a current session, but the lectures are available. While you're on that site, you might also enjoy looking up Jeff Ullman's course on Automata Theory, which will give you some useful tools for the CS side of these questions.
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#12 uperkurk  Icon User is offline

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Re: If it has software, can it be compromised?

Posted 05 July 2014 - 07:20 AM

View Postjon.kiparsky, on 04 July 2014 - 05:19 PM, said:

In a nutshell, any computer that is sufficiently powerful to run interesting programs can be compromised. This is actually one of the earliest results in computer science, since it's really a direct consequence of Turing's work, and is fundamentally related to the Halting Problem. Basically, it's impossible to know what an arbitrary program will do by programmatic inspection. This is a bald statement and there's a lot more to understand here about what you can know about a program through inspection, but the upshot is that it will always be possible, in principle to compromise a piece of software if you can get access to it.

If you want some in-depth discussion of malware, you might learn something from this course. There isn't a current session, but the lectures are available. While you're on that site, you might also enjoy looking up Jeff Ullman's course on Automata Theory, which will give you some useful tools for the CS side of these questions.


Thanks. If I wanted to learn more about this stuff should I be reading about "embedded systems" or is it something different? What is the technical word for this sort of things?
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