IDG News Service - DUSSELDORF, Germany -- The arsenal of modern weapons that terrorists might someday use to disrupt power grids, gas lines and other parts of the nation's critical infrastructure includes conventional weapons as well as bits and bytes -- in other words cyberterror attacks. The cyberthreat to the electricity we use and the water we drink is real, experts say, but there's no need to panic -- at least not yet.
"Our research shows that terrorist groups are definitely interested in attacking critical infrastructures," said Eric Byres, research director at the Internet Engineering Laboratory of the British Columbia Institute of Technology in Burnaby. "The good news is that we don't think they have the technical ability yet -- in other words, the combined IT and control system skills needed to penetrate a utility network. The bad news is that they're beginning to acquire some of these skills."
Confidential documents about supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, for instance, have been found in al-Qaeda hiding places in Afghanistan, while the Irish Republican Army has said it plans cyberattacks on crucial supply systems, according to Justin Lowe, principal consultant with PA Consulting Group.
Equally disturbing is that talented hackers in many parts of the world are willing to peddle their expertise for the right price or political cause, according to DK Matai, chairman of Mi2g Ltd., a London security service provider. "We have evidence of Russian hackers selling their skills to radical Islamic groups," he said.
Few, if any, of the industrial control systems used today were designed with cybersecurity in mind because hardly any of them were connected to the Internet. For the most part, these companies viewed their infrastructures as secure from cyberattacks because of their isolated structure.
However, utilities and factories are now using the Internet to carry SCADA messages from an increasing number of Web-enabled, remote-control systems, said Joe Weiss, who served as security director at the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif., and its Enterprise Infrastructure Security Initiative before joining KEMA Consulting.
Not only that, but also many of their "private" networks now are built with the help of competitively priced fiber-optic connections and transmission services provided by telecom companies, which have become the frequent target of cyberattacks.
Last year, a power utility crash that was caused indirectly by the Slammer worm paralyzed a leased telecom service. For its SCADA communications network, the utility used a frame-relay service, which a carrier provided over its ATM ( Asynchronous Transfer Mode) backbone. The ATM network was overwhelmed by the worm, blocking SCADA traffic to substations.
- 5 Ways Dropbox for Business Keeps Your Data Protected Protecting your data isn't a feature on a checklist, something to be tacked on as an afterthought. Download here to find out how...
- The Keys to Securing Data in a Collaborative Workplace Losing data is costly. IT professionals have spent years learning how to protect their organizations from hackers, but how do you ward off...
- Evaluating File Sync and Share Solutions: 12 Questions to Ask about Security File sync and share can increase productivity, but how do you pick a solution that works for you? Download to learn some important...
- The Truth About Cloud Security "Security" is the number one issue holding business leaders back from the cloud. But does the reality match the perception?
- Responding to New SSL Cybersecurity Threat The featured Gartner research examines current strategies to address new SSL cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities.
- Deep Dive into Advanced Networking and Security with Hybrid Cloud Security and networking are among the top concerns when moving workloads to the cloud. VMware vCloud® Hybrid Service™ enables you to extend your... All Security White Papers | Webcasts
Our new bimonthly Internet of Things newsletter helps you keep pace with the rapidly evolving technologies, trends and developments related to the IoT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!