U.S. public utility suffers a compromise

The unidentified utility was vulnerable to a brute-force cyber security attack, where hackers try different combinations of passwords until they find the right one.


A public utility in the U.S. suffered a compromise after attackers took advantage of a weak password security system.

The utility's control system was accessible via Internet-facing hosts and used a simple password system, wrote the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) in a report on incidents covering the first quarter of this year.

The unidentified utility was vulnerable to a brute-force attack, where hackers try different combinations of passwords until they find the right one. An investigation showed the utility suffered an attack before.

"It was determined that the systems were likely exposed to numerous security threats, and previous intrusion activity was also identified," ICS-CERT wrote in the report.

The U.S. government continues to warn critical infrastructure players like power and water plants they remain at risk of cyber attack, as many of their IT systems have not undergone an audit for vulnerabilities and configuration mistakes.

ICS-CERT warned it is easy for hackers using search engines such as Google and SHODAN to find Internet-connected control systems "that were not intended to be Internet facing."

The report described a second cyber attack, but did not give further details.

"In that instance, an Internet-connected control system that operated a mechanical device ended up accessed by an attacker using a cellular modem. The access was through a SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) protocol," ICS-CERT said.

"The device was directly Internet accessible and was not protected by a firewall or authentication access controls," ICS-CERT wrote.

The attacker appears to have struck at the wrong time as the device was undergoing scheduled maintenance and ended up disconnected from the control system.

"In the first quarter of this year, ICS-CERT advised 20 energy, water, nuclear and transportation utilities on identifying vulnerabilities and how to improve their cyber defenses," the report said.

Gregory Hale is the editor and founder of Industrial Safety and Security Source (ISSSource.com), a news and information website covering safety and security issues in the manufacturing automation sector. This content originally appeared here. Edited by Brittany Merchut, Project Manager, CFE Media, bmerchut@cfemedia.com 

C.G. , FL, United States, 07/02/14 12:03 AM:

This just points out the danger inherent in connecting control systems to the outside world. While it may be convenient to allow managers and technicians to reach facilities controls remotely, one should seriously think whether that convenience is worth the risk. Its an assessment that needs to be done on a case-by-case basis.
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 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...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

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.