Feeds

Electrical grid overlords take drubbing over cyber attack vulnerability

'Disorganized, ineffective'

The essential guide to IT transformation

US lawmakers ripped into the organization that oversees North America's electrical grid, saying it isn't doing enough to prevent cyber attacks that could cripple the economy.

US Representative James Langevin, chair of the House Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity and Science and Technology, said he had "little confidence" that the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) has fully addressed a vulnerability code-named Aurora, in which electric utilities generators and other equipment comes to a grinding halt.

"I still do not get the sense that we are addressing cybersecurity with the seriousness that it deserves," Langevin said, according to this report from IDG News Service. "I think we could search far and wide and not find a more disorganized, ineffective response to an issue of national security of this import. If NERC doesn't start getting serious about national security, it may be time to find a new electric reliability organization."

The public thrashing came after the release of a report (PDF) by the General Accountability Office (GAO) identifying numerous vulnerabilities at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) that put the nation's biggest public power company at risk to cyber attacks.

Among other things, the TVA had firewalls that were improperly configured or bypassed, used poorly implemented passwords, and relied on logging practices that weren't up to snuff, according to the GAO report. TVA administrators had also neglected to install key software patches and ran intrusion-detection systems with "significant limitations." The GAO issued 92 recommendations for shoring up cyber security at the TVA, which supplies power to 8.7 million US residents in seven states.

The scrutiny comes as more and more electricity providers try to cut costs and boost efficiency by using so-called supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, which allow workers to operate equipment remotely using the internet or telephone lines. The systems may save money, but they also potentially make the equipment vulnerable to cyber attack by extortionists, disgruntled employees and terrorists.

The TVA was already in the process of fixing the problems before investigators began their report, a TVA official said. And NERC, along with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is in the process of implementing new rules for cybersecurity that go into effect in July. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Ice cream headache as black hat hacks sack Dairy Queen
I scream, you scream, we all scream 'DATA BREACH'!
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
Oz fed police in PDF redaction SNAFU
Give us your metadata, we'll publish your data
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?