Flaws in Phoenix Contact Automationworx Allow Code Execution via Malicious Files

Several vulnerabilities affecting the Phoenix Contact Automationworx automation software suite can be exploited for remote code execution using specially crafted project files.

Advisories describing the security holes were published recently by the DHS’s National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) on the ICS-CERT website, by Germany’s VDE CERT, and Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative (ZDI), through which researchers from 9sg Security Team reported the vulnerabilities to the vendor and government agencies.

The flaws have been found to impact two components of Automationworx versions 1.86 and earlier: PC Worx, a piece of engineering software for Phoenix Contact controllers; and Config+, a tool for configuring INTERBUS networks.

Two of the vulnerabilities, classified as “high severity” with a CVSS score of 7.8, are caused by an uninitialized pointer issue and a use-after-free bug. The least severe of the flaws, with a CVSS score of 3.3, has been described as an out-of-bounds read issue. The weaknesses are tracked as CVE-2019-12869, CVE-2019-12870 and CVE-2019-12871.

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The vulnerabilities can be exploited for arbitrary code execution in the context of the current process using manipulated PC Worx or Config+ project files.

“The attacker needs to get access to an original PC Worx or Config+ project file to be able to manipulate it. After manipulation the attacker needs to exchange the original file by the manipulated one on the application programming workstation,” VDE CERT explained in its advisory.

Phoenix Contact is working on a new version of Automationworx that should address the vulnerabilities. In the meantime, users have been advised to avoid exchanging project files via unencrypted emails or other insecure file transfer methods.

Related: Flaws Expose Phoenix Contact Industrial Switches to Attacks

Related: Serious Flaws Found in Phoenix Contact Industrial Switches

Related: Critical Flaws Patched in Phoenix Contact Industrial Switches

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

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