Thursday, August 30, 2012

FBI and Homeland Security launch probe as foreign cyber attackers target U.S. water supply

FBI and Homeland Security launch probe as foreign cyber attackers target U.S. water supply

November 18th 2011

A pump was damaged after hackers from Russia got into a water plant control system in Illinois last week.

It is thought to be the first foreign cyber attack damaging a major computer system in the U.S.

A water district employee in Illinois first noticed problems with the water pump control system on November 8.

After an investigation it was determined the system had been hacked into from a computer in Russia, the Washington Post reports.

An Illinois state fusion centre report on the attack said it is not known how many other systems might be affected.

The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that a water plant in Springfield, Illinois, had been damaged.

However spokesman Peter Boogaard said officials had yet to confirm that the pump failure was the result of a cyber-attack.

‘At this time there is no credible corroborated data that indicates a risk to critical infrastructure entities or a threat to public safety.’

A report from the Illinois terrorism and intelligence center said there had been problems with the system in Springfield for two to three months.

The system ‘would power on and off, resulting in the burnout of a water pump,’ the report said.

It added that cyber attackers broke into a software company’s database and got hold of user names and passwords of various control systems that run water plant computer equipment.

The method used, hacking a security company to gain entry to another company, was employed earlier this year by cyber attackers in China.

They stole data from RSA, a division of EMC that provides secure remote computer access to government agencies.

They then went on to get into the computer systems of companies, including Lockheed Martin.

Security experts say the attacks show just how vulnerable companies and utilities are.

Gen. Keith Alexander, head of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, said: ‘RSA is the gold standard. If they got hacked, where does that leave the rest?’

Mr Alexander is among senior U.S. officials who have warned of the danger of cyber attacks on critical infrastructure.

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