Power plants vulnerable to hackers: security firm

US computer security research firm NSS Labs warned that it uncovered new ways that hackers could sabotage power plants
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

Software smart bomb fired at Iranian nuclear plant: experts

(c) 2011 AFP

Citation: Power plants vulnerable to hackers: security firm (2011, May 20) retrieved 17 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2011-05-power-vulnerable-hackers-firm.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

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.

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.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more