Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Satellite (In)security: Vulnerability Analysis of Wideye SATCOM Terminals

By Ethan Shackelford


This blog post introduces our most recent whitepaper detailing original research into two SATCOM terminals manufactured by Addvalue Technologies, Ltd.: the Wideye iSavi and Wideye SABRE Ranger 5000.

We identified numerous serious security vulnerabilities in both devices, including broken or backdoored authentication mechanisms, rudimentary data parsing errors allowing for complete device compromise over the network, completely inadequate firmware security, and sensitive information disclosure, including the leaking of terminal GPS coordinates. These issues were present in all reviewed firmware versions, including the currently available release.

Research Goals

The primary goal of this research was to determine the security posture of these two SATCOM terminals, whose application spans multiple industries. By taking the results of this research in isolation, IOActive hopes to gain insight into the current state of security in the SATCOM industry. Additionally, by comparing the research results with the conclusions drawn from the research we conducted in 2014 and 2018, it is possible to assess how much progress toward improved security has been made in that time.

Furthermore, given the bleak outlook of the findings of this research, IOActive hopes that the publication of this information will increase awareness of these issues and make the necessity of immediate corrective action very clear.

Research Targets

Wideye iSavi Portable SATCOM Terminal

The Wideye iSavi is a portable satellite terminal operating over the Inmarsat iSatHub and BGAN services, offering voice, text, and Internet connectivity to devices connecting to the iSavi via a built-in WiFi access point. It is designed for general consumer use as per the Wideye documentation, allowing maintained connectivity for those outside the range of coverage of traditional ground-based Internet infrastructure. It may or may not be configured to be accessible over the broader Internet and can be managed remotely via a web interface or other means.

Wideye SABRE Ranger 5000

The Wideye SABRE Ranger 5000, built on technology similar to the iSavi, is a BGAN Machine-to-Machine (M2M) satellite terminal. It is designed to operate and stay connected to the Internet without interruption and is commonly configured for accessibility over the wider Internet, to allow for remote management. It is intended for industrial use, with the Wideye brochure [1] suggesting its use in the following industries:

Firmware Images

Despite the varied uses, investigation into the two devices indicated that very similar firmware runs on each. As such, all vulnerabilities identified during this research effect both the iSavi and the Ranger, with the impact varying somewhat for each vulnerability based on the use-case of each device.

Firmware versions analyzed during this research include:


  • R01.0.0: The version which was pre-installed on the iSavi originally purchased for the research in 2019
  • R01.0.1 and R02.0.0: Firmware versions available for download from the vendor website [2] over the course of research beginning in 2019
  • R02.0.2: Current firmware version available for download from the vendor website as of the publication of this blog post

SABRE Ranger 5000

  • R01.0.0: The version which was pre-installed on the iSavi originally purchased for the research in 2019
  • R01.0.3: Current firmware version available for download from the vendor website as of the publication of this blog post


Cyberattacks on SATCOM Infrastructure: Understanding the Threat

Before elaborating on the vulnerabilities discovered during this research, it is important to understand what kind of threat is posed by any given attack, and how to think about that attack’s impact.

Attack Vectors

Since we will be looking at SATCOM terminals, it is important to understand the paths available to an attacker for potential device access. Figure 2 comes from the SABRE Ranger M2M (an older SABRE Ranger model) marketing brochure [3] and lays out the architecture of SATCOM terminal communication nicely. The layout for the iSavi differs slightly, in that its internal network is established over WiFi, but the diagram is still accurate at a high level.

External Network

Both the Ranger and the iSavi have the capability to be made accessible over the Internet, with or without a static IP address. This feature is more likely to be enabled on the Ranger, as its stated purpose includes remote access of resources to which it is connected.

Internal Network

Both the Ranger and the iSavi support some means of connecting the devices to a local IP network, which will then allow for routing of data between those devices and the Internet. For the iSavi, this is a WiFi access point. The Ranger includes two Ethernet ports which serve the same purpose.

Other Interfaces

While the iSavi’s functionality is limited to network connectivity, the Ranger also includes various physical interfaces for industrial equipment, including GPIO, analog, serial, and ModBus. While these interfaces could potentially be subject to vulnerabilities, exploitation via these interfaces would require physical access to the equipment, and as such are of lower impact than those attacks which can be performed remotely/semi-remotely. However, it is important to consider the impact that the compromise of this device might have on connected equipment; Figure 3 is from the Ranger 5000 brochure12 and provides an example of the kinds of equipment that would be under attacker control in such a scenario.

Attack Scenarios

The whitepaper lays out several plausible attack scenarios for the SABRE Ranger 5000 and the iSavi, taking into account the intended applications of each device and leveraging one or more of the vulnerabilities identified during this research. These scenarios include potential disruption of Emergency Services operations for the iSavi, and an undetected attack on critical Oil and Gas infrastructure for the SABRE Ranger 5000. In both cases, a reasonable case for a risk to human safety can be made.


Findings Overview





AT Shell Buffer Overflow

A failure to properly handle data being sent to the device over the network results in the ability of an unauthenticated attacker to fully compromise the device over both internal and external networks.


A, C, I

Web Admin AT Command Overflow

A failure to properly handle data being sent to the device via the web management interface results in the ability of an authenticated attacker to fully compromise the device over both internal and external networks.


A, C, I

Remote Web Administration Bypass

Poorly designed access controls allow an attacker to access “remote management” features of a Ranger or iSavi device over the Internet, even when remote management has been disabled by the user.


A, C, I

Hardcoded / Backdoored Web Credentials

The web administration interface used by iSavi and Ranger devices contains several undocumented, hardcoded username/password pairs which can be used to access the management interface. One user, called root, has full privileges, and can make arbitrary changes to device configuration.


A, C, I

Hardcoded / Backdoored Operating System Credentials

The credentials for the operating system (VxWorks) command line interface exposed via Telnet are hardcoded and can be recovered via reverse engineering. Once these credentials are obtained, an attacker can access the operating system at the highest privilege level, executing arbitrary code over the network.


A, C, I

Unauthenticated Firmware Updates

No mechanism whatsoever is in place to verify that a firmware update being supplied to the device is coming from a trusted source. An attacker with the ability to upload new firmware (achievable via many of the identified vulnerabilities) can make malicious changes to the firmware image and run arbitrary code on the device.


A, C, I

Services Bound on All Interfaces

All network services, including those likely intended only for local network utilities or management, are listening on all interfaces, including those exposed to external networks, potentially including the wider Internet.


C, I

AT Command Authentication Brute-Force

The authentication mechanism used by the device’s AT server (which allows for some control over the device) has no protections against brute-forcing, allowing an attacker to attempt to brute-force the authentication until successful without hinderance.


iSavi Records GPS Coordinates as Events

The iSavi records GPS coordinates periodically and logs them for viewing via the web interface. As established, this web interfaced may be accessed remotely by a malicious party, revealing the location of the iSavi and its user.



Weak Firmware Obfuscation

Wideye use a trivially reversable form of obfuscation to deter analysis of firmware images.



Remote Address Cross-site Scripting

A web page returning an error when attempting remote management via the web interface is susceptible to cross-site scripting, allowing execution of arbitrary JavaScript when a crafted link is visited by a legitimate user.


Debug Information Included in Firmware Images

The firmware images provided by Wideye for the Ranger and iSavi devices include detailed debugging information, making it substantially easier for an attacker to reverse engineer the firmware and identify exploitable vulnerabilities.



Locally Exposed Telnet for WiFi Management

A separate management system is exposed via Telnet for configuring WiFi when connected to the local network of the device. Telnet is an insecure protocol, making it possible for an attacker to intercept the username and password for this system when accessed by the main host.


C, I


The stated goal of this research was to assess the security posture of two SATCOM terminals, the iSavi and SABRE Ranger 5000 from Wideye. Our assessment found the security of both devices to be extremely poor and cause for serious concern to the various industries which may make use of these products, including Oil and Gas, Agriculture, Utilities, Mining, and any remote work which must rely on satellite connectivity due to location or circumstance.

Taking these results in isolation, our assessment gives clear indication that neither the Availability, Integrity, nor Confidentiality of either the iSavi or Ranger 5000 is protected from compromise. These devices are affected by numerous vulnerabilities which are well established in the industry, with proposed fixes and well-known best practices in some cases for several decades. In other cases, the devices have been made less secure by design, with the introduction of several sets of hardcoded “backdoor” credentials—a practice understood to be insecure in all industries.

The results indicate that those devices exposed to the wider Internet, a possible configuration for the Ranger 5000 (whose marketed purpose is remote management of industrial assets), are at especially high risk. However, even if the devices are not exposed directly to the Internet, many vulnerable services are unnecessarily exposed to the satellite network, which still provides ample opportunity for attack from within that network.

Users of these devices can take steps to mitigate some of these issues, such as enabling the device’s firewall and heavily restricting access to only those IPs explicitly known to be trusted. This is not a panacea and does not fully protect these devices. The final responsibility for securing the iSavi and Ranger 5000 lies with the vendor, who is the only entity in a position to meaningfully correct the issues identified in this paper.

Taken in the wider context of the SATCOM industry and IOActive’s previous research in this field, the results of this research are a uneasy indication that the SATCOM industry has not heeded the many warnings of researchers and security professionals over the last decade, maintaining an unacceptable attitude toward security inappropriate in the face of the threat landscape of the modern age. As SATCOM technology becomes more advanced and is relied on more heavily by a variety of sectors, the security of this industry will only become more vital. It is in the hands of SATCOM vendors to rapidly modernize their approach and attitude toward security.


[1]: https://www.addvaluetech.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/SABRERanger5000_WE190205032100_en.pdf
[2]: https://www.addvaluetech.com/pdf_categories/firmware/
[3]: https://www.wideye.com.sg/default/uploads/Brochures/SABRERangerM2M_WE074210051500_EN.pdf