Thursday, September 27, 2007

Much ado about nothing

Be afraid, be very afraid, of hackers!
The video, produced for the Homeland Security Department and obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday, was marked "Official Use Only." It shows commands quietly triggered by simulated hackers having such a violent reaction that the enormous turbine shudders as pieces fly apart and it belches black-and-white smoke.

The video was produced for top U.S. policy makers by the Idaho National Laboratory, which has studied the little-understood risks to the specialized electronic equipment that operates power, water and chemical plants. Vice President Dick Cheney is among those who have watched the video, said one U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because this official was not authorized to publicly discuss such high-level briefings.


The electrical attack never actually happened. The recorded demonstration, called the "Aurora Generator Test," was conducted in March by government researchers investigating a dangerous vulnerability in computers at U.S. utility companies known as supervisory control and data acquisition systems. The programming flaw was quietly fixed, and equipment-makers urged utilities to take protective measures.
First there's no money in it--almost all malware currently out there is designed to either garner personal information, or take over a computer so it can be used as a spam-bot (or both). Second, such an attack has not happened, and is not likely to happen. Regardless, everyone needs to take steps to better protect their systems and computers against hacks. Keeping supervisory command and control computers off-line seems to be common sense.