Feeds

Wind turbine farm hack exposed as hoax

Tilting at windmills

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Updated Claims of a supposed hack against the computers controlling wind turbines run by NextEra Energy Resources, a subsidiary of Florida Power & Light, are increasingly looking like a hoax.

"Bgr R" posted the information to a full disclosure mailing list over the weekend in what the poster said was an act of revenge after Florida Power gave him the sack. In an email interview with Computerworld, Bgr R said that he had used a vulnerability in the firm's installation of Cisco security management software to hack into SCADA systems used to control turbines. He claimed that he carried out the supposed attack in order to embarrass the firm.

Even at this early point of reporting the story Computerworld was careful to include caveats, for example noting that Bgr R had got FPL's name wrong at on point of the exchange, a mistake an ex-worker would be unlikely to make. This caution turns out to be well founded.

NextEra Energy Resources said it found no evidence of any breach of its systems. In addition, some of the supposed evidence posted by Bgr R came from other sources.

We have investigated the claim of a potential computer hacking and found that the information provided as proof of "hacking" is largely publicly available information, which by itself would not be adequate to launch a successful attack against the named SCADA system or wind site. We have not seen any evidence of a breach, and we are continuing our monitoring and detection to protect against possible attacks.

Reports of the supposed hack made quite a splash over the weekend. Although the material posted by Bgr R initially looked plausible closer inspection revealed that buttons were in German, wind speed were quoted in km/hr not mph, and the control system depicted was for a much small facility than the 200MW/136 turbine farm ran by NextEra Energy Resources. In addition, the circuit diagram was all wrong, as explained in a compressive debunking of the whole business by Spanish reverse engineer and expert on SCADA control systems Ruben Santamarta here.

The screenshots are designed to suggest Bgr R had access to management systems controlling the 136-turbine Fort Sumner wind farm, New Mexico. If the hack was legitimate (which increasingly looks highly unlikely), the access might be enough to shut down the facility or (at worst) set up operational parameters that were likely to lead to equipment failure. Wind turbines are shut down for any number of reasons anyway, ironically including situations where it get too windy for them to operate safely. @reg;

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Knock Knock tool makes a joke of Mac AV
Yes, we know Macs 'don't get viruses', but when they do this code'll spot 'em
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Why weasel words might not work for Whisper
CEO suspends editor but privacy questions remain
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
BlackEnergy crimeware coursing through US control systems
US CERT says three flavours of control kit are under attack
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
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.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.