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Security flaws in SCADA systems are increasingly commonplace

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April 3, 2017

One more time again, nuclear power stations all over the globe have been warned to increase their overall defences against hackers after government officials warned of credible cyber threats.

Government intelligence agencies are warning that terrorists, foreign spies and hacktivists are all looking to exploit known security vulnerabilities in the nuclear industry's internet defences.

Several security flaws in SCADA systems and associated computer networks are becoming increasingly commonplace. Exploiting them successfully is certainly possible.

According to internet security firm Damballa, specific malware aimed at the core of power plants spread around the world is nothing of the sort. The Damballa analysis claims the SFG malware is run-of-the-mill code without sufficient smarts to target SCADA systems.

For his part, John Bambenek, a threat intelligence manager at Fidelis Cybersecurity, said that the call for increased vigilance made sense.

It should be noted that the reports suggest that various terrorist groups want to develop capabilities to attack energy and nuclear facilities, but do not yet have that ability," Bambenek said.

However, that doesn't mean vigilance isn't due. Utility operators need to ensure that their critical systems do not have direct internet access and controls are in place so that no one system could cause a catastrophic outage.

The power outages in Ukraine that have been attributed to the Russian government show us that even commodity tools can be used against critical infrastructure to great effect. Operators need to ensure that their safety testing includes various scenarios where there are machines controlled by adversary powers to ensure controls still protect against failures.

Additionally, what is almost more important than monitoring inbound network traffic is monitoring outbound traffic which often yields more valuable intelligence data on potentially compromised devices inside a utility company.

For example, Siemens said it has concocted a program it is making it available for detecting and disinfecting malware and viruses attacking its complex power-grid management software. Siemens' software also controls critical oil & gas refineries and manufacturing plants.

The German enginerring firm warns that customers who use the infected software could have the devastating effect of disrupting whole power grids in the U.S., Canada, South America, Europe and Asia.

Peter Carlisle, vice president at Thales eSecurity, asserted-- "Cyberattacks against critical national infrastructure are set to increase dramatically as criminals develop increasingly heinous methods to jeopardise national security in just about any country."

"From power stations to the transport network, the risk to the public remains very high, especially if hackers are able to gain access to electronic systems," he added.

Source: Fidelis Cybersecurity.

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