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
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
5 Ways to Up Your Threat Management Game
Wayne Reynolds, Advisory CISO, Kudelski Security,  2/26/2020
Exploitation, Phishing Top Worries for Mobile Users
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  2/28/2020
Kr00k Wi-Fi Vulnerability Affected a Billion Devices
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  2/26/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
6 Emerging Cyber Threats That Enterprises Face in 2020
This Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at six emerging cyber threats that enterprises could face in 2020. Download your copy today!
Flash Poll
State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
Data breaches and regulations have forced organizations to pay closer attention to the security incident response function. However, security leaders may be overestimating their ability to detect and respond to security incidents. Read this report to find out more.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2015-3006
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-28
On the QFX3500 and QFX3600 platforms, the number of bytes collected from the RANDOM_INTERRUPT entropy source when the device boots up is insufficient, possibly leading to weak or duplicate SSH keys or self-signed SSL/TLS certificates. Entropy increases after the system has been up and running for so...
CVE-2015-5361
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-28
Background For regular, unencrypted FTP traffic, the FTP ALG can inspect the unencrypted control channel and open related sessions for the FTP data channel. These related sessions (gates) are specific to source and destination IPs and ports of client and server. The design intent of the ftps-extensi...
CVE-2020-6803
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-28
An open redirect is present on the gateway's login page, which could cause a user to be redirected to a malicious site after logging in.
CVE-2020-6804
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-28
A reflected XSS vulnerability exists within the gateway, allowing an attacker to craft a specialized URL which could steal the user's authentication token. When combined with CVE-2020-6803, an attacker could fully compromise the system.
CVE-2019-4301
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-28
BigFix Self-Service Application (SSA) is vulnerable to arbitrary code execution if Javascript code is included in Running Message or Post Message HTML.