Hackers Are Going After Power Grids

Illustration for article titled Hackers Are Going After Power Grids

According to Tom Donahue, a CIA official, hackers have recently infiltrated various power grids outside the US, and in at least one instance, caused a power outage in multiple cities. We don't know much else: the when, where, how and who were all left for guessing only. But we know that the attacks were done remotely (through the internet) and that current Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems (that, as we understand it, represent many of the world's infrastructural networks, software and databases) are sadly out of date.

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At the hacking convention DefCon, security firm Tipping Point gave a presentation outlining various SCADA vulnerabilities, and others in the know are claiming that these vulnerabilities are leading to major electronic extortion of utility companies, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, the CIA is questioning whether or not SCADA is the vulnerability in question.

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I'm just hoping that said hackers live next door to me, and that therefore my power is safe and sound. [forbes]

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DISCUSSION

I can tell you all that when we design systems with network connections, we tell the client to 'keep the blue cable disconnected until you are told to connect it' This applies to a phone line in are an internet connection. That being said I know of at least three facilities where I can gain remote access any time I want because they do not keep it disconnected.

No, there is no 'press here to shutoff everything' button or command on the screen. But there are things that can be started and stopped that would cause a system wide failure. The systems are smart, but you do have to program them for the least common denominator.

Also, this does not just apply to power grids, but to water, wastewater, airports, and communication networks as well. I've worked on designs with SCADA systems for all of them. So yes, it is too easy to get in and hack them, especially if you know anything about SCADA systems.