Monday, November 21, 2011

First Successful Cyber Attack Against U.S. Infrastructure

On Friday, November 18th, the Washington Post reported that hackers at an IP address in Russia had successfully shut down a water treatment plant in Illinois.  According to the article: "Experts said the cyber-attack, if confirmed, would be the first known to have damaged one of the systems that supply Americans with water, electricity and other essentials of modern life."   Go here to read the article.

Oddly enough, this attack came less than a month after DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano had briefed the press that, "hackers have “come close” to shutting down parts of the nation’s critical infrastructure."  Although those attacks had been thwarted, they were sufficiently robust to raise serious concerns in Washington.  Go here to read that article.

Comment:  Attacks, such as the one cited above, go after the Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) system used to manage the associated piece of infrastructure. Numerous and diverse elements of the nation's infrastructure use SCADA to include electric, water and waste, transportation, communications, and even 9-1-1.  In addition, while over the years SCADA systems have come to rely more and more on the Internet for functionality, they use virtually none of the standard security protocols such as firewalls, antivirus software or routers.  Consequently, as time has gone by, the nation's infrastructure has become more and more exposed to malicious attacks by hackers.  Recently, two very reliable sources of information have explored this topic:

Although not directly related to these developments, some infrastructure owners have begun adding geospatial visualization to their control systems in order to be better prepared to deal with a variety of future demands and threats to their networks.  As such, the infrastructure community is beginning to move from the wiring diagram style visualization component of past SCADA systems, to a location based presentation of information.  Two references in this regard are:

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