A Triconex Industrial controller allows triple modular redundancy and 2/3 consensus vote based control. The design has its origins in the 80’s industrial needs for safety for industrial controllers. The product was acquired by Schneider via Invensys in 2014. The Hatman/Triton malware framework targeting this specific controller came to light, late 2017. The Triconex is programmed with a TriStation, a Windows application which integrates with Windows directory and allows programming in FBD, LD, ST, CEM.
From the SchneiderElectric, Accenture and Mandiant analyses of the malware, more technical details appeared recently. A previous paper appeared in IEEE, Jan 2017. A brief summary is below.
Access to the controller network is necessary. The Triconex controller needs to be in Program mode. A malware program agent, TriLogger, running on Windows in the same network talks over a Tricon protocol to program the Triconex controller to install/deploy the control payload program. The malware payload program then runs like a regular program on the controller, on every scan cycle – running in parallel in three versions.
Once on the controller, the malware looks for a way to elevate its privilege level. It starts observing the runtime, including memory inspections. There is a memory backdoor attempted, but there is a probable error handling mistake which prevents this. Now to be able to access the firmware, it takes advantage of a zero-day vulnerability in the firmware. It is able to install itself in the firmware, overwriting a network function call. In the end it installs a Remote Access Terminal to allow remote access of the controller. This could have been a vector to download further payloads, but no evidence was found that this RAT was actually used. It attempts to remove traces of itself after installation.
Source code of the program is at https://github.com/ICSrepo/TRISIS-TRITON-HATMAN .
Zero day attacks are a continuing challenge as by definition they are not widely known before they are used for an attack. However a secure by design approach reduces the attack surface for exploits. There were opportunities to detect the malware on the network and the windows host.
Update: A cert advisory for Triton appears in https://ics-cert.us-cert.gov/advisories/ICSA-18-107-02 and “Targeted Cyber Intrusion Detection and Mitigation Strategies” in https://ics-cert.us-cert.gov/tips/ICS-TIP-12-146-01B