How do hackers invade networks?

Dear Control Engineering: I was reading the posting about hackers invading control systems. How is that possible with safeguards?


Dear Control Engineering: I was reading the posting about hackers invading control systems. How is that possible with safeguards?

One of the techniques that has been in use with hackers for a while is “phishing,” which is a way for the hacker to gain access to a system by fooling a human being into unwittingly creating an access point. Usually you get some kind of email with an attachment. If you try to open the attachment, say a photo, e-greeting card, or some other type of file, it may not work properly. The message tells you that to see the file, you need to download some kind of reader or other bit of free software. If you do this, you’re doomed. That file is the hacker’s foot in the door and your computer becomes the portal for him or her to get around in the networks that connect to your computer.

There have been many variations on this approach since savvy users begin to recognize when this sort of thing is going on. If you have any sense, you aren’t going to send your bank account information because you get an email out of the blue that says your account has been frozen. I received some emails at my home account recently that claim to be from UPS and telling me that a package that I supposedly tried to ship prior to Christmas did not get delivered because the address was wrong. I’m supposed to click on the attachment for information on getting the package back. Fortunately, I’m not dumb enough to do that.

The really scary technique that has emerged recently is called “spear phishing.” It is a more sophisticated process where a motivated hacker is determined to break into a specific system to conduct industrial espionage. Let’s say your company is engaged in a specific area of business that is of interest to the hacker. He can run Web searches on your company and find the names of key individuals in strategic areas. He then sends a highly targeted email to these individuals that gives the impression of being from within the company, but it uses the same technique. The recipient is fooled into downloading something that seems entirely appropriate, but that computer now becomes a portal. From there the hacker can begin to move throughout the networks using that person’s internal clearances. It makes detecting what’s going on very difficult.

A recent article describes this method in greater detail. There are countermeasures a company can use to resist this technique, but it can be very hard to detect. Several major oil companies have had highly proprietary information stolen using spear phishing as the entry method, and they did not realize the extent of the problem until the FBI told them about it. While these begin with enterprise level and IT networks, once those networks are compromised, attackers could turn their efforts to control systems, so any invasion should be a concern to people involved in manufacturing.

Read the Control Engineering Industrial Control System Cyber Security blog.

–Peter Welander, process industries editor.

Posted by Ask Control Engineering on February 6, 2010

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Safety for 18 years, warehouse maintenance tips, Ethernet and the IIoT, GAMS 2016 recap
2016 Engineering Leaders Under 40; Future vision: Where is manufacturing headed?; Electrical distribution, redefined
Strategic outsourcing delivers efficiency; Sleeve bearing clearance; Causes of water hammer; Improve air quality; Maintenance safety; GAMS preview
SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
Safety at every angle, Big Data's impact on operations, bridging the skills gap
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Applying network redundancy; Overcoming loop tuning challenges; PID control and networks
Driving motor efficiency; Preventing arc flash in mission critical facilities; Integrating alternative power and existing electrical systems
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role of plant safety and offers advice on best practices.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me