U.S. water treatment systems attacked by hackers

Matt Evangelist November 21, 2011 0
U.S. water treatment systems attacked by hackers

A water pump in Springfield, Illinois was destroyed after a group of hackers infiltrated the utility’s network. The pump is thought to have been destroyed by rapidly turning it on and off.

Peter Boogaard, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), indicated that “At this time, there is no credible corroborated data that indicates a risk to critical infrastructure entities or a threat to public safety.”

The attack appears to have occurred from a Russian IP address. The hackers were able to compromise the system by breaking into the manufacturer and vendor’s networks. This enabled the hackers to obtain login credentials to the system. Naturally, the question of whether or not these hackers obtained login information to other utility systems remains.

Interestingly, the utility’s operators noticed abnormalities in the system for several months before the incident. They claimed to believe it was due to the instability of the system itself, rather than a security breach.

Investigations are ongoing with the FBI and Homeland Security (DHS), and have revealed the possibility of a second attack in South Houston thanks to a post by a hacker using the identity “pr0f.”

According to pr0f, the attack on the South Houston network could hardly be considered a hack. The password cracked was claimed to be a mere three characters in length, a quarter of the minimum secure password length according to Microsoft and Google.

Various hackers have made it a habit to target Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. These systems are designed to handle utility work such as filtering water and distribute power. The Springfield and South Houston systems are examples of SCADA systems. The U.S. has been advised to pay close attention to these attacks and learn from them in order to prevent more attacks on critical systems.

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