Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Perimeter

4/8/2009
07:54 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

WSJ's Meatless 'Spies' Story

Wednesday's Wall Street Journal article reporting that the U.S. power grid had been infiltrated by Chinese and Russian "cyberspies" likely caused a few people to choke on their Cheerios. But it left the security community -- already jaded with stories of SCADA and power-grid vulnerabilities, and with assumptions that the grid had been hacked a long time ago -- hungry for more.

Wednesday's Wall Street Journal article reporting that the U.S. power grid had been infiltrated by Chinese and Russian "cyberspies" likely caused a few people to choke on their Cheerios. But it left the security community -- already jaded with stories of SCADA and power-grid vulnerabilities, and with assumptions that the grid had been hacked a long time ago -- hungry for more.Marcus Sachs, director of SANS Internet Storm Center, says his first thought was, "Where is the beef?" Sachs, a SCADA security expert, told me he didn't think the revelations by the article's unnamed senior intelligence official sources were anything new -- at least to the security industry. But the report could help raise awareness among businesses running critical infrastructures, such as small power companies, to remember that "cyberspace is a dangerous place."

"For the rest of us, we already know that's what's been going on," Sachs says.

Still, we security folk want more. We want the down-and-dirty malware particulars. What exactly were those "software tools" described by senior officials in the WSJ article? Spyware? Bots? Malicious code that takes over the admin rights of the power grid systems and triggers blackouts?

It wasn't clear given how the article's sources described the hacks, with the intruders "believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls," but had not been out to damage it, although those sources said the hackers could try to do so "during a crisis or war." They reportedly left behind the so-called software tools, which they could ultimately use to destroy elements of the power grid infrastructure, the article said.

Power grid insecurity is a well-documented topic in the security world, most recently with IOActive's discovery of several vulnerabilities in the next-generation Smart Grid network of intelligent power switches that could let an attacker break in and cut off power. And on Tuesday, Dark Reading blogger and security expert Gadi Evron blog on Tuesday shed light on how poorly SCADA vendors handle vulnerabilities.

Senior officials' acknowledgment of the intrusions may not have given us enough meat to chew on, but it did raise the topic at breakfast tables around the country, where everyone expects their refrigerator to always be running when they grab the milk and the light to come on when they flip the switch. For the rest of us in security? Hey, at least we now have another topic besides Conficker to chat about at the office coffee maker.

-- Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Data Leak Week: Billions of Sensitive Files Exposed Online
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  12/10/2019
Lessons from the NSA: Know Your Assets
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  12/12/2019
4 Tips to Run Fast in the Face of Digital Transformation
Shane Buckley, President & Chief Operating Officer, Gigamon,  12/9/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-19807
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-15
In the Linux kernel before 5.3.11, sound/core/timer.c has a use-after-free caused by erroneous code refactoring, aka CID-e7af6307a8a5. This is related to snd_timer_open and snd_timer_close_locked. The timeri variable was originally intended to be for a newly created timer instance, but was used for ...
CVE-2014-8650
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-15
python-requests-Kerberos through 0.5 does not handle mutual authentication
CVE-2014-3536
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-15
CFME (CloudForms Management Engine) 5: RHN account information is logged to top_output.log during registration
CVE-2014-3643
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-15
jersey: XXE via parameter entities not disabled by the jersey SAX parser
CVE-2014-3652
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-15
JBoss KeyCloak: Open redirect vulnerability via failure to validate the redirect URL.