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Rare SCADA bug poses power plant risk

Wonderware scare

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Security watchers warn of a rare vulnerability involving software used to control industrial systems. A denial of service vulnerability in monitoring software from Invensys poses a severe risk to the factories and utilities running its Wonderware subsidiary's InTouch SuiteLink application.

Windows versions of the package use a common software component, the SuiteLink Service, to allow components using a proprietary protocol to talk together over TCP/IP networks.

A security bug means hackers that are able to connect to the SuiteLink service TCP port can shut it down by sending a malformed packet, according to Core Security, the security tools firm that discovered the vulnerability. It's unclear whether or not the bug creates a means for hackers to inject hostile code onto vulnerable systems.

Even the possibility that hackers could shut down SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) systems remotely, and without needing to get past password checks, is bad enough in itself. According to Wonderware's website, one third of the world’s industrial plants run its software.

The US Department of Homeland Security rated the vulnerability as a high risk bug, in a security alert issued on Tuesday. The SANS Institute's Internet Storm Centre advises admins to patch vulnerable systems as soon as possible.

Vulnerabilities in consumer and business software are commonplace while bugs involving industrial control software are rare. Security firms, most notably Symantec, are trying to expand from their traditional markets into the sale of kit to protect SCADA systems, which are increasingly controlled over IP networks and therefore (at least in theory) more vulnerable to attack. ®

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