More than 9,000 Virtual Network Computing (VNC) endpoints were found sitting completely unprotected on the internet, available for access to anyone who knew where to look. To make matters even worse, some of these endpoints were industrial control systems, meaning the potential for disaster was quite big.
Researchers from Cyble recently scanned the internet for connected VNC instances and found that of the 9,000 vulnerable, the majority were located in China and Sweden, with a notable number of instances also discovered in the United States, Spain, and Brazil.
VNC is a graphical desktop-sharing system allowing users to remotely control an endpoint. It is platform-independent and allows multiple clients to connect to a VNC server at the same time. Usually, VNCs are used as remote technical support or remote file access, and as such, must be protected with a password, or other means of user authentication. Sometimes, that’s not the case, as some people prefer convenience over security. Sometimes, the passwords are not set up in error, or due to negligence, BleepingComputer reports.
Sensitive systems exposed
But oftentimes, important systems lie behind exposed VNCs (such as water treatment facilities), leaving entire communities at risk.
“During the course of the investigation, researchers were able to narrow down multiple Human Machine Interface (HMI) systems, Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition Systems (SCADA), Workstations, etc., connected via VNC and exposed over the internet,” Cyble says.
Cyble’s researchers managed to find an exposed VNC that gave them access to an HMI for controlling pumps on a remote SCADA system.
The risk is not purely theoretical, either. It’s quite palpable, Cyble say. Scanning for attacks on port 5900, the default port for VNC, the researchers found more than six million requests - in just a month. Most of these attempts came from either the Netherlands, Russia, or the United States.
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