Feeds

Hacktivists pose growing threat to industrial computing

DHS warns nation about Anonymous

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
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.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
Ello? ello? ello?: Facebook challenger in DDoS KNOCKOUT
Gets back up again after half an hour though
SHELLSHOCKED: Fortune 1000 outfits Bash out batches of patches
CloudPassage points to 'pervasive' threat of Bash bug
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
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.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
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.