New Malware Targets Utility Control Systems

Last month's disclosure of a sophisticated malware program targeting control system software from Siemens AG has renewed long-standing concerns about whether the U.S. power grid can withstand targeted cyberattacks.

The malware, called Stuxnet, exploits a Windows flaw to find and steal industrial data from supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems running Siemens' Simatic WinCC or PCS 7 software.

SCADA systems are used to control critical equipment at power companies, manufacturing facilities, water treatment plants and nuclear power operations.

Stuxnet is the first publicly known malicious software program written specifically to exploit vulnerabilities in a SCADA system.

The Trojan program appears to have been created for industrial theft but could just as easily have been used to sabotage a SCADA system, said Eric Knapp, director of critical infrastructure markets at NitroSecurity Inc.

The emergence of threats like Stuxnet drives home the need for more federal oversight of cybersecurity in the utilities sector, said Joseph Weiss, managing partner at Applied Control Solutions LLC.

"Hacking a control system does not take rocket science," Weiss said. "Protecting one does."

This story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an earlier version that first ran on Computerworld.com.

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