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SCADA flaws put world leaders at risk of TERRIBLE TRAFFIC JAM

Host city for 2014's G20 meeting pen tests its traffic lights and finds flaws galore

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In November 2014, leaders of the G20 group of nations will convene in Brisbane, Australia, for a few days of plotting to form a one-world government high-level talks aimed at ensuring global stability and amity.

Queensland, the Australian state in which Brisbane is located, is leaving no preparatory stone unturned as it readies itself for the summit. For example: new laws mean it will be illegal to carry a reptile, fly a kite or use a laser pointer close to the venues used for the meeting.

The State has also conducted a review of its traffic management systems, mostly to figure out how to improve traffic flow but also with half an eye on the G20 summit and the likely online attacks and protests it will attract. That review's report (PDF) explains how the authors tried penetration tests on Queensland's two operators of intelligent transport systems (ITS) and succeeded with both attempts.

“The entities audited did not actively monitor and manage information technology security risks and did not have comprehensive staff security awareness programs,” the report notes. Managers assumed the SCADA kit in use was secure, staff weren't aware of social engineering or other attacks and it was possible to extract information from both traffic system operators with USB keys.

The possible outcomes of this negligence, the report says, are as follows:

“If the systems were specifically targeted, hackers could access the system and potentially cause traffic congestion, public inconvenience and affect emergency response times. Such attacks could also cause appreciable economic consequences in terms of lost productivity.”

Happily, both of Queensland's ITS operators have unreservedly accepted the report's recommendations.

Unhappily, the SCATS system used for one Queensland ITS is also deployed in 26 nations beyond Australia. Transmax, the company behind the STREAMS system used by Queensland's other ITS operator is seeking partners to enter the UK market. Whether either outfit has closed the holes the report identified is not known. ®

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