Power plants vulnerable to hackers: security firm

May 20, 2011
Photo illustration of a nuclear power plant in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. US computer security research firm NSS Labs warned that it uncovered new ways that hackers could sabotage power plants, oil refineries or manufacturing operations.

US computer security research firm NSS Labs warned that it uncovered new ways that hackers could sabotage power plants, oil refineries or manufacturing operations.

"This is a global problem," NSS chief executive Rick Moy told AFP.

"There are no fixes to this right now," he continued. "Bad guys would be able to cause real environmental and physical problems and possibly loss of life."

NSS said that it shared its findings with the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team and was briefing legitimate industrial facilities that are at risk but was revealing little publicly for the sake of safety.

NSS researcher Dillon Beresford reported finding "multiple vulnerabilities" in Siemens programmable logic controllers (PLCs) used in plants worldwide to automatically regulate temperatures, pressures, turbine speeds, and more.

Those are the same devices targeted by a Stuxnet virus evidently crafted to disable an Iranian .

While the Stuxnet virus struck at PLCs through a plant's , Beresford discovered ways to reprogram the devices directly if they can be reached on a network, according to Moy.

"The security of these systems is not what it should be," Moy said.

"Comments were made that it took a nation state millions of dollars and teams of people to create Stuxnet," he continued. "We don't believe that to be true; it was not that hard to create these problems."

Beresford came up with the attacks in less than three months with a budget of $2,000 to $3,000 dollars, according to NSS.

NSS has shared its findings with the US and Germany-based Siemens, which downplayed concerns that an attack could be pulled off outside the lab and said it was working to address the vulnerabilities.

Explore further: Evaluating system security by analyzing spam volume

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

World's first 'cyber superweapon' attacks China

Sep 30, 2010

A computer virus dubbed the world's "first cyber superweapon" by experts and which may have been designed to attack Iran's nuclear facilities has found a new target -- China.

Stuxnet worm rampaging through Iran: IT official

Sep 27, 2010

The Stuxnet worm is mutating and wreaking further havoc on computerised industrial equipment in Iran where about 30,000 IP addresses have already been infected, IRNA news agency reported on Monday. ...

Recommended for you

Study shows role of media in sharing life events

34 minutes ago

To share is human. And the means to share personal news—good and bad—have exploded over the last decade, particularly social media and texting. But until now, all research about what is known as "social sharing," or the ...

UK: Former reporter sentenced for phone hacking

7 hours ago

(AP)—A former British tabloid reporter was given a 10-month suspended prison sentence Thursday for his role in the long-running phone hacking scandal that shook Rupert Murdoch's media empire.

Evaluating system security by analyzing spam volume

7 hours ago

The Center for Research on Electronic Commerce (CREC) at The University of Texas at Austin is working to protect consumer data by using a company's spam volume to evaluate its security vulnerability through the SpamRankings.net ...

Surveillance a part of everyday life

8 hours ago

Details of casual conversations and a comprehensive store of 'deleted' information were just some of what Victoria University of Wellington students found during a project to uncover what records companies ...

European Central Bank hit by data theft

9 hours ago

(AP)—The European Central Bank said Thursday that email addresses and other contact information have been stolen from a database that serves its public website, though it stressed that no internal systems or market-sensitive ...

Twitter admits to diversity problem in workforce

11 hours ago

(AP)—Twitter acknowledged Wednesday that it has been hiring too many white and Asian men to fill high-paying technology jobs, just like several other major companies in Silicon Valley.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

spectator
not rated yet May 20, 2011
You know...

This is not the sort of thing I want to hear about.

Whenever you consult someone to help identify security risks, you shouldn't then go on the internet and broadcast to the world that you actually have security risks.

"Hey everybody, we're vulnerable!"

Seriously.
AJaremko
not rated yet May 20, 2011
Interesting use of a photo of a nuclear power plant to illustrate a story about risks at many kinds of industrial facilities. Do we remember Bhopal? I'd suggest plants manufacturing phosgene or chorine might be a greater hazard. But then, there's a nuclear=catastrophe conditioned reflex the media have learned to reinforce and use.
COCO
1 / 5 (1) May 24, 2011
is it true that the Stuxnet virus was released by Al Ciada causing much of this worry and maybe the malfunctions in Japan?