AmosConnect: Maritime Communications Security Has Its Flaws

Satellite communications security has been a target of our research for some time: in 2014 IOActive released a document detailing many vulnerabilities in popular SATCOM systems. Since then we’ve had the opportunity to dive deeper in this area, and learned a lot more about some of the environments in which these systems are in place.

Recently, we saw that Shodan released a new tool that tracks the location of VSAT systems exposed to the Internet. These systems are typically installed in vessels to provide them with internet connectivity while at open sea.

The maritime sector makes use of some of these systems to track and monitor ships’ IT and navigation systems as well as to aid crew members in some of their daily duties, providing them with e-mail or the ability to browse the Internet. Modern vessels don’t differ that much from your typical office these days, aside from the fact that they might be floating in a remote location.

Satellite connectivity is an expensive resource. In order to minimize its cost, several products exist to perform optimizations around the compression of data while in transit. One of the products that caught our eye was AmosConnect.

AmosConnect 8 is a platform designed to work in a maritime environment in conjunction with satellite equipment, providing services such as:

  • E-mail
  • Instant messaging
  • Position reporting
  • Crew Internet
  • Automatic file transfer
  • Application integration

We have identified two critical vulnerabilities in this software that allow pre-authenticated attackers to fully compromise an AmosConnect server. We have reported these vulnerabilities but there is no fix for them, as Inmarsat has discontinued AmosConnect 8, announcing its end-of-life in June 2017. The original advisory is available here, and this blog post will also discuss some of the technical details.

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Source: IIOActive