Is Cyberwarfare a Real Threat?

There’s one incredibly simple solution for protecting things like equipment in power plants … just make sure that vital devices don’t have a connection to the internet and that the people who have access to them have been thoroughly vetted.

Suggestions that the dangers of computer warfare have been overdone don’t stand up to the emerging realities

The video is a generator tearing itself apart after a cyberattack. Happily, it’s a simulated one set up by the US Department of Home Security in 2007 – but it shows the sort of things that cyberwar, and in particular the Stuxnet worm, the first one known to be attacking machinery in this way, is aiming to do.

What’s quite scary about the video is that (sanctioned) hackers who did it were only told the domain of the system.

The Stuxnet worm would do much the same to the generator: it interrupts the processes which monitor events, so that high-speed machinery effectively goes unmonitored and out of control.

Is that real? In 2009 Fox News (yes, we know) reported that: “The US power grid has been hacked by foreign spies … Russian and Chinese cyberspies not only got into our electrical system but left behind computer programs that could be used for future attacks.” The Department for Homeland Security issued a vaguely denial-based denial – “not aware of any incidents where the grid was compromised”, but it was hardly convincing: “the vulnerability is something we have known about for years”. See below:

Cyberwar isn’t new – Russia is believed to have used it before its invasion of Georgia to knock out websites and, perhaps, infrastructure. Napoleon famously said that an army marches on its stomach, but these days it thinks over the internet.

And in the US, Lockheed Martin has put this (rather flashy) video together about cyberwar – in which it says that one of the biggest enemies is “foreign governments”.

“Economic espionage has always been a threat”, explains Eric Cole, chief scientist of cyber security at Lockheed Martin. Which recalls, of course, the Titan Rain attacks against the US and UK governments in 2006/7. Cole is confident, by the way, that he’s going to have work for the next 30 years in advising on how to evade these attacks.

Is Stuxnet the way forward? And if it is, what does that imply?

One cause for slight concern in all this is the fact that Siemens’s SCADA system, as targeted by Stuxnet, runs on top of Windows – which offers all sorts of openings for zero-day vulnerabilities. One can’t help feeling that North Korea’s decision to try to develop its own operating system based on Linux was wise: not only does it save money, but it might have some resistance to attempts to infiltrate its systems via worms like this. Though if you’re dealing with national spy agencies determined to infect your systems, that may be a futile hope. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Link to Original Content

Western Telematic, Inc. (WTI) designs and manufactures remote power control and remote port access products for the IT industry. Our Outlet Metered PDU products and Console Port Server products provide valuable tools for any IT manager who needs secure, remote access to power control and command functions on rack mounted IT equipment.

Tags: , , , ,

Comments are closed.