Feeds

Hacktivists pose growing threat to industrial computing

DHS warns nation about Anonymous

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

Members of the Anonymous hacking collective are increasingly interested in attacking industrial control systems used to automate machinery used by factories, power stations, water treatment plants, and other facilities critical to national security, the Department of Homeland Security warned last month.

In a memorandum (PDF) sent to partners involved in security and critical infrastructure operations, members of a DHS arm known as the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center cited several internet postings that indicate Anonymous' growing interest in targeting the remotely accessible computers used to open valves and control other gear in industrial facilities. The four-page document went on to say Anonymous members faced significant challenges, including their limited ability in hacking the gear.

“However, experienced and skilled members of Anonymous in hacking could be able to develop capabilities to gain access and trespass on control system networks very quickly,” the memo stated. “Free educational opportunities (conferences, classes), presentations at hacker conferences, and other high profile events/media coverage have raised awareness to ICS vulnerabilities, and likely shortened the time needed to develop sufficient tactics, techniques, and procedures to disrupt ICS.”

Events over the past 18 months have brought new urgency to the security of so-called SCADA, or supervisory control and data acquisition, systems used in factories, power plants, and elsewhere. Topping the list is evidence that the Stuxnet computer worm, which penetrated thousands of systems across the globe, was built as a “search and destroy weapon” by the US, Israel, or another country to sabotage Iran's fledgling nuclear program. The sophisticated piece of malware repeatedly attacked five industrial plants inside Iran over a 10-month period and caused centrifuges for uranium enrichment to malfunction.

Also significant was research unveiled earlier this year by Dillon Beresford of NSS Labs that defects in SCADA software sold by Siemens affected “every industrialized nation across the globe.” Beresford ended up postponing a previously scheduled talk about the vulnerabilities following concerns it could make attacks easier.

According to last month's DHS memo, people claiming affiliation to Anonymous in July posted code that makes queries to SIMATIC, the automation system used to issue commands to industrial control systems.

“The posted xml and html code reveals that the individual understands the content of the code in relation to common hacking techniques to obtain elevated privileges,” the document stated. “It does not indicate knowledge of ICS; rather, it indicates that the individual has interest in the application software used in control systems.

The memo went on to note that recent updates to Metasploit and other tools used by blackhat and whitehat hackers may allow even novices to penetrate SCADA systems.

The memo also referred to the “green energy” agenda touted by some members of Anonymous who are opposed to a proposed Keystone oil pipeline that would extend from Canada to Texas. Targeting of energy companies could extend beyond the ranks of Anonymous to other hacking groups, the authors said. ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Home Depot: 56 million bank cards pwned by malware in our tills
That's about 50 per cent bigger than the Target tills mega-hack
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Critical Adobe Reader and Acrobat patches FINALLY make it out
Eight vulns healed, including XSS and DoS paths
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
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?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.