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Modify Controller Tasking

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Modify Controller Tasking
ID T0821
Tactic Execution
Data Sources File: File Modification, Asset: Software/Firmware
Asset Field Controller/RTU/PLC/IED


Adversaries may modify the tasking of a controller to allow for the execution of their own programs. This can allow an adversary to manipulate the execution flow and behavior of a controller.

According to 61131-3, the association of a Task with a Program Organization Unit (POU) defines a task association.1 An adversary may modify these associations or create new ones to manipulate the execution flow of a controller. Modification of controller tasking can be accomplished using a Program Download in addition to other types of program modification such as online edit and program append.

Tasks have properties, such as interval, frequency and priority to meet the requirements of program execution. Some controller vendors implement tasks with implicit, pre-defined properties whereas others allow for these properties to be formulated explicitly. An adversary may associate their program with tasks that have a higher priority or execute associated programs more frequently. For instance, to ensure cyclic execution of their program on a Siemens controller, an adversary may add their program to the “task”, Organization Block 1 (OB1).

Procedure Examples

  • PLC-Blaster's code is stored in OB9999. The original code on the target is untouched. The OB is automatically detected by the PLC and executed.2
  • Stuxnet infects OB1 so that its malicious code sequence is executed at the start of a cycle. It also infects OB35. OB35 acts as a watchdog, and on certain conditions, it can stop the execution of OB1.3
  • Triton's "argument-setting" and inject.bin shellcode are added to the program table on the Tricon so that they are executed by the firmware once each cycle.45


  • Audit - Provide the ability to verify the integrity of control logic or programs loaded on a controller. While techniques like CRCs and checksums are commonly used, they are not cryptographically strong and can be vulnerable to collisions. Preferably cryptographic hash functions (e.g., SHA-2, SHA-3) should be used.6
  • Code Signing - Utilize code signatures to verify the integrity of the installed program on safety or control assets has not been changed.