Feeds

Electrical grid overlords take drubbing over cyber attack vulnerability

'Disorganized, ineffective'

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
George Clooney, WikiLeaks' lawyer wife hand out burner phones to wedding guests
Day 4: 'News'-papers STILL rammed with Clooney nuptials
Shellshock: 'Larger scale attack' on its way, warn securo-bods
Not just web servers under threat - though TENS of THOUSANDS have been hit
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
PEAK IPV4? Global IPv6 traffic is growing, DDoS dying, says Akamai
First time the cache network has seen drop in use of 32-bit-wide IP addresses
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.