2 min Security

Dutch hackers win Pwn2Own by cracking industrial ICS systems

Dutch hackers win Pwn2Own by cracking industrial ICS systems

Thijs Alkemade and Daan Keuper discovered important vulnerabilities in three widely used industrial ICS systems during hacking competition Pwn2Own.

Thijs Alkemade and Daan Keuper work for Computest, a security firm based in the Netherlands. The duo participated in hacking competition Pwn2Own and successfully discovered a number of vulnerabilities in Iconics, Inductive Automation en Aveva.


Alkemade and Keuper focussed on Control Server solutions. The solutions provide connectivity, monitoring and management of various industrial systems. Some vulnerabilities were found in the OPC Unified Architecture (UA) for industrial systems. This protocol sends data between the systems of various vendors and is used in almost all ICS solutions and applications. In a .NET implementation, the duo demonstrated that unauthorised access was possible. In a C++ implementation, a DDoS vulnerability was found.

In addition, Alkemade and Keuper managed to identify a weakness in AVEVA Edge, a Human Machine Interface (HMI). HMI’s allow administrators to access various hardware components. When breached by a hacker, administrators no longer have insight into the status of systems. If undetected, the latter can significantly disrupt production processes.


Work to be done

According to Computest, the findings show that there much to be gained in the area of ICS security. This is the second time that Thijs Alkemade and Daan Keuper have won the Pown2Own contest in the United States. Last year they managed to discover many vulnerabilities in the video conferencing platform Zoom. Both hackers win a prize of 90,000 dollars (over 83,000 euros) for their discoveries.

Tip: Computest acquires SYSQA in major expansion