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Thread: Foreign Hackers Targeting U.S. Utilities In Cyber Attacks

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    Creepy Ass Cracka & Site Owner Ryan Ruck's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Foreign Hackers Targeting U.S. Utilities In Cyber Attacks

    Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Expert Says
    November 18, 2011

    Foreign hackers caused a pump at an Illinois water plant to fail last week, according to a preliminary state report. Experts said the cyber-attack, if confirmed, would be the first known to have damaged one of the systems that supply Americans with water, electricity and other essentials of modern life.

    Companies and government agencies that rely on the Internet have for years been routine targets of hackers, but most incidents have resulted from attempts to steal information or interrupt the functioning of Web sites. The incident in Springfield, Ill., would mark a departure because it apparently caused physical destruction.

    Federal officials confirmed that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security were investigating damage to the water plant but cautioned against concluding that it was necessarily a cyber-attack before all the facts could be learned. “At this time there is no credible corroborated data that indicates a risk to critical infrastructure entities or a threat to public safety,” said DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard.

    News of the incident became public after Joe Weiss, an industry security expert, obtained a report dated Nov. 10 and collected by an Illinois state intelligence center that monitors security threats. The original source of the information was unknown and impossible to immediately verify.

    The report, which Weiss read to The Washington Post, describes how a series of minor glitches with a water pump gradually escalated to the point where the pump motor was being turned on and off frequently. It soon burned out, according to the report.

    The report blamed the damage on the actions of somebody using a computer registered to an Internet address in Russia. “It is believed that hackers had acquired unauthorized access to the software company’s database” and used this information to penetrate the control system for the water pump.

    Experts cautioned that it is difficult to trace the origin of a cyber-attack, and that false addresses often are used to confuse investigations. Yet they also agreed that the incident was a major new development in cyber-security.

    “This is a big deal,” said Weiss. “It was tracked to Russia. It has been in the system for at least two to three months. It has caused damage. We don’t know how many other utilities are currently compromised.”

    Dave Marcus, director of security research for McAfee Labs, said that the computers that control critical systems in the United States are vulnerable to attacks that come through the Internet, and few operators of these systems know how to detect or defeat these threats. “So many are ill-prepared for cyber-attacks,” Marcus said.

    The Illinois report said that hackers broke into a software company’s database and retrieved user names and passwords of control systems that run water plant computer equipment. Using that data, they were able to hack into the plant in Illinois, Weiss said.

    Senior U.S. officials have recently raised warnings about the risk of destructive cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure. One of the few documented cases of such an attack resulted from a virus, Stuxnet, that caused centrifuges in an Iranian uranium enrichment facility to spin out of control last year. Many computer security experts have speculated that Stuxnet was created by Israel — perhaps with U.S. help — as a way to check Iran’s nuclear program.

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    Default Re: Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Exp

    Maybe its time to start thinking about disconnecting vital infrastructures from the internet.

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    Default Re: Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Exp

    Quote Originally Posted by catfish View Post
    Maybe its time to start thinking about disconnecting vital infrastructures from the internet.
    Or at least centralize the reporting and control separate from the actual equipment. You have a computer that interacts with the equipment rather than having the equipment plugged straight to the internet. First the bad guys have to get through the firewalls, then compromise the command and control computer. You then watch one computer instead of 100s of devices.
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt


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    Default Re: Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Exp

    They should have fire walls ANYWAY... and they should have protection on the switches and routers.

    Russians compromising a water supply. IMAGINE THAT! This MUST be a lie cuz they are "our friends" right Obama?
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    Default Re: Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Exp

    Water utility hackers destroy pump, expert says




    SCADA breach 'a really big deal'
    By Dan Goodin in San FranciscoGet more from this author
    Posted in Security, 17th November 2011 22:03 GMT


    Updated Hackers destroyed a pump used by a US water utility after gaining unauthorized access to the industrial control system it used to operate its machinery, a computer security expert said.


    Joe Weiss, a managing partner for Applied Control Solutions, said the breach was most likely performed after the attackers hacked into the maker of the supervisory control and data acquisition software used by the utility and stole user names and passwords belonging to the manufacturer's customers. The unknown attackers used IP addresses that originated in Russia.


    Weiss cited an official government report from the state where the regional water district was located. It was dated November 10, two days after the hack was discovered. The document indicates that the utility had been experiencing unexplained problems with its computerized system in the weeks leading up to the breach.



    “Over a period of two to three months, minor glitches had been observed in remote access to the water district's SCADA system,” Weiss said during an interview, in which he read a verbatim portion of the document to The Register. He said that the attackers were able to burn out one of the utility's pumps by causing either the pump or the SCADA system that controlled it to turn on and off “repeatedly.”


    Weiss said he obtained the report on the condition that the water utility and the state where it's located aren't disclosed. A statement issued by the US Department of Homeland Security indicated the utility was located in Springfield, Illinois. Weiss published bare-bones details of the hack on Thursday because he wanted to bring attention to an incident he said raised serious concerns about the ability of the US government to secure critical infrastructure.


    “This is really a big deal, and what's just as big a deal is what isn't being said or isn't being done,” Weiss said. “What the hell is going on with DHS? Why aren't people being notified?”


    He said he's unaware of any water utilities or other SCADA operators who know about the attack.


    In an email sent several hours after this article was first published, DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard wrote: "DHS and the FBI are gathering facts surrounding the report of a water pump failure in Springfield Illinois. At this time there is no credible corroborated data that indicates a risk to critical infrastructure entities or a threat to public safety."


    The Register was unable to verify the claims in the report. A security researcher with no affiliation to Weiss said there was no obvious reason to doubt the attack took place as described.


    “It's not surprising,” said Rick Moy, President and CEO of NSS Labs. “These things are connected to the internet in ways they shouldn't be. It's very plausible.”


    Over the past few years, the vulnerability of the control systems used to operate power plants, gas refineries, and other industrial systems has been underscored by a variety of events. Chief among them was the Stuxnet computer worm that infiltrated SCADA systems in Iran and disrupted that country's nuclear program. Earlier this year, security researcher Dillon Beresford disclosed bugs in widely used control systems that he said were “far reaching and affect every industrialized nation across the globe.”


    More recently, researchers discovered highly sophisticated malware dubbed Duqu had infiltrated at least eight industrial facilities throughout the world by exploiting a previously unknown vulnerability in Microsoft Windows. Some researchers say it was created by people with close ties to Stuxnet.


    Weiss said the possibility that attackers of the water utility obtained passwords for multiple customers of the SCADA manufacturer left open the possibility that other industrial facilities are also susceptible or may already have been breached. Many industrial control systems rely on passwords that are hard-coded, making it difficult to change stolen passcodes without causing serious problems.


    Weiss said the objectives and identities of the attackers remain a mystery. Possibilities could include a nation state doing reconnaissance, recreational hackers looking for laughs, or a criminal gang setting up an elaborate extortion scheme.


    “Until you find who did it, there's no way to know what the motive is,” he said. ®
    This article was updated to add comment from DHS.
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    Default Re: Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Exp

    DHS says they are "investigating". They have to get all the facts of course....

    Weiss said the objectives and identities of the attackers remain a mystery. Possibilities could include a nation state doing reconnaissance, recreational hackers looking for laughs, or a criminal gang setting up an elaborate extortion scheme.
    Let's say for shits and giggles this isn't anything to do with Russia. The IP address was proxied out of the USA. Let's just say for shits and giggles this is a "false flag".

    The issue I have here is that water supplies are a natural resource and technically an attack on our resources is an attack on our country, and an act of war. It has always been considered so in the past. Suddenly, though, we let China play with our servers and routers, Russia foul up water pumps and North Korea screw with GPS signals.

    When the fuck are we going to stop letting the boys play with their toys?


    If I had more time to do something, I'd take down the fucking Kremlin, but my OWN government would probably come after me.

    Assholes
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    Default Re: Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Exp

    On a side note... I just saw an artcile posted with the "Top 25 WORST passwords of 2011". I suspect they are the same as 2010, 2009 and 1985....

    1. password

    2. 123456

    3. 12345678

    4. qwerty

    5. abc123

    6. monkey

    7. 1234567

    8. letmein

    9. trustno1

    10. dragon

    11. baseball

    12. 111111

    13. iloveyou

    14. master

    15. sunshine

    16. ashley

    17. bailey

    18. passwOrd

    19. shadow

    20. 123123

    21. 654321

    22. superman

    23. qazwsx

    24. michael

    25. football
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    Default Re: Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Exp

    Foreign cyber attack hits US infrastructure: expert

    November 19, 2011 Enlarge
    A man uses a laptop computer at a wireless cafe. A cyber strike launched from outside the United States hit a public water system in the Midwestern state of Illinois, an infrastructure control systems expert said on Friday.


    A cyber strike launched from outside the United States hit a public water system in the Midwestern state of Illinois, an infrastructure control systems expert said on Friday.


    "This is arguably the first case where we have had a hack of critical infrastructure from outside the United States that caused damage," Applied Control Solutions managing partner Joseph Weiss told AFP.


    "That is what is so big about this," he continued. "They could have done anything because they had access to the master station."


    The Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center disclosed the cyber assault on a public water facility outside the city of Springfield last week but attackers gained access to the system months earlier, Weiss said.


    The network breach was exposed after cyber intruders burned out a pump.
    "No one realized the hackers were in there until they started turning on and off the pump," according to Weiss.


    The attack was reportedly traced to a computer in Russia and took advantage of account passwords stolen during a hack of a US company that makes Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) software.
    There are about a dozen or so firms that make SCADA software, which is used around the world to control machines in industrial facilities ranging from factories and oil rigs to nuclear power and sewage plants.


    Stealing passwords and account names from a SCADA software company was, in essence, swiping keys to networks of facilities using the programs to control operations.


    "We don't know how many other SCADA systems have been compromised because they don't really have cyber forensics," said Weiss, who is based in California.


    The US Department of Homeland Security has downplayed the Illinois cyber attack in public reports, stating that it had seen no evidence indicating a threat to public safety but was investigating the situation.


    Word also circulated on Friday that a water supply network in Texas might have been breached in a cyber attack, according to McAfee Labs security research director David Marcus.


    "My gut tells me that there is greater targeting and wider compromise than we know about," Marcus said in a blog post.


    "Does this mean that I think it is cyber-Armageddon time?" Marcus continued. "No, but it is certainly prudent to evaluate our systems and ask some questions."
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    Default Re: Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Exp

    Well... I use strong passwords too Peterle, even here (especially here on this site). I am, after all an administrator and need to protect the system here from anyone who might grab my password.

    Even my home computer has a 99% strong password. No one in the family can log into my machine. They all have their own stuff (and believe me this has been a source of martial strife at times)... but on the other hand, if even my wife hasn't the ability to log in there is nothing anyone can do about it.
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    Default Re: Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Exp

    Yeah. I have tight ones, internet as well. I have several anti-root kits and anti-key logger programs, and keep something running all the time.

    Browser does NOT know anything. I turned it all off. There are no master passwords, no stored password, no stored history. I have been using pgp encryption of late with emails as well.
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    Default Re: Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Exp

    /chuckles. I have what I have and don't tell people. LOL!
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    Senior Member catfish's Avatar
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    Default Re: Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Exp

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Donaldson View Post
    DHS says they are "investigating". They have to get all the facts of course....



    Let's say for shits and giggles this isn't anything to do with Russia. The IP address was proxied out of the USA. Let's just say for shits and giggles this is a "false flag".

    The issue I have here is that water supplies are a natural resource and technically an attack on our resources is an attack on our country, and an act of war. It has always been considered so in the past. Suddenly, though, we let China play with our servers and routers, Russia foul up water pumps and North Korea screw with GPS signals.

    When the fuck are we going to stop letting the boys play with their toys?


    Interesting that you would say attacking our resources is an act of war. I've read several articles this week where the pentagon says they could retaliate with force in the event of a cyber attack. Even more interesting is your idea of a false flag attack. What if the Russians or Chinese cyber attacked us and made it look like another country did it? This is a can of worms.

    If I had more time to do something, I'd take down the fucking Kremlin, but my OWN government would probably come after me.

    Assholes

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    Senior Member catfish's Avatar
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    Default Re: Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Exp

    Quote Originally Posted by Malsua View Post
    Or at least centralize the reporting and control separate from the actual equipment. You have a computer that interacts with the equipment rather than having the equipment plugged straight to the internet. First the bad guys have to get through the firewalls, then compromise the command and control computer. You then watch one computer instead of 100s of devices.
    I think centralizing would at least be better than what we are doing now. Current conditions leave us very vulnerability. Frontline did a story about hackers attacking power plants that was very interesting. The Frontline story dovetails nicely with this report of hackers attacking our water supply. This time its a water pump, next time it is an electrical generator being burned up.

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    Default Re: Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Exp

    I think... catfish, you put your text inside the quote.

    It's not actually all that interesting though. the internet is part of the infrastructure. So are trains, planes, shipping, water supplies and factories, electrical grid and I'm sure I am missing a couple of things. Oh, communications.

    Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away - ok, well, wasn't that long ago actually, I used to have to sit through training in the military on what was and wasn't a "target", what is and isn't a "policy" and what as the "enforcement arm" of the US Government me, as a lowly Airman was responsible for protecting - AND WHY.

    The internet fits into that part of infrastructure containing communications.

    Water is a resource.

    Attacking our resources (prevention of humans getting water for instance, or poisoning it) is grounds for a military response. Attacking it through the internet is worse.

    Attacking the internet to disable communications (or shooting down a satellite) are also grounds for a military response.

    I wish I had copies of the slides or some of the training material I've seen over the years. I suspect other military members here have seen similar stuff.

    I remember more recently having to take a class (online at work) about this sort of thing.

    So, you can rest assured that what I've said is not a stupid response or unwarranted.

    While some folks might think it dumb to bomb the shit out of the Chinese for doing a little, perhaps unsuccessful cyber attack on some electrical substation in Peoria, Illinois - it's not beyond the pale to eventually expect some kind of a US military response to some cyber attack.

    It will happen eventually.

    Again, this is the "frog in the pot of water" scenario though. They do little pokes and prods to see our response. We have, thus far, done little but strengthen our Internet defenses.

    Eventually the attack will be something we can no longer ignore, or sweep under the carpet (as they are really trying to do with this at the DHS... investigate it my ass) and there will be a REAL, and brutal military response for doing it.
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    Default Re: Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Exp

    Russian' hackers seize control of U.S. public water system by remotely destroying pump


    • Attacks on critical infrastructure set worrying precedent for security officials
    • Hacked SCADA software also used in nuclear power stations and on oil rigs
    • Officials trace attack to computer in Russia

    By Graham Smith

    Last updated at 6:03 PM on 21st November 2011


    Russian cyber criminals have destroyed a pump used to supply water to thousands of homes in Illinois, according to an infrastructure control systems expert.

    Hackers accessed the public water facility in the city of Springfield and are believed to have then broken the pump by remotely turning it on and off in quick succession.

    The incident, which took place on November 8, sets a worrying precedent for security officials - particularly after another hacker has since claimed to have taken control of a second U.S. facility.


    Hackers using a computer in Russia have accessed an Illinois public water facility and are believed to have then broken the pump by remotely turning it on and off quickly


    Joe Weiss, who advises utilities on how to protect themselves against hackers, told the AFP news agency: 'This is arguably the first case where we have had a hack of critical infrastructure from outside the United States that caused damage.

    'That is what is so big about this. They could have done anything because they had access to the master station.'

    The attack, which is being investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department For Homeland Security (DHS), has been traced to a computer in Russia, Mr Weiss said.

    More...


    It first came to light after Mr Weiss, of Applied Control Solutions, posted on his blog quotations taken from a one-page report by the Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center.

    The report said hackers obtained access using stolen login names and passwords.

    These were taken during a hack on a U.S. company that makes Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) software, which is used around the world to control machines in critical industrial facilities.

    SCADA software is in place at nuclear power stations and oil rigs; the Illinois infiltration therefore sets a frightening precedent.

    Mr Weiss said: 'We don't know how many other SCADA systems have been compromised because they don't really have cyber forensics.'


    Further embarrassment: A second hacker has posted this screenshot of the internal control systems for a waste water treatment plant in South Houston



    A Twitter profile picture of the South Houston hacker - he claimed said that the water system was only protected by a three-character password


    He claimed the report said 'glitches' in the remote access system for the pump had been notices for months before the pump was destroyed.

    'No one realised the hackers were in there until they started turning on and off the pump,' he said.

    Peter Boogaard, a spokeman for the DHS, said: 'At this time there is no credible corroborated data that indicates a risk to critical infrastructure entities or a threat to public safety.'

    However, a hacker using the online name 'pr0f' has responded to Mr Boogaard's statement by claiming to have taken control of a second U.S. public facility, this time in South Houston, Texas.

    Astonishingly, he said that SCADA system was only protected by a three-character password.

    To prove his point, he then posted links - on the Pastebin website - to what he claims are screenshots of the internal control systems for the waste water treatment plant.

    The issue of securing SCADA systems from cyber attacks made international headlines last year after the mysterious Stuxnet virus attacked a centrifuge at a uranium enrichment facility in Iran.

    Many experts said that was a major setback for Iran's nuclear weapons program and attribute the attack to the U.S. and Israel.

    In 2007, researchers at the U.S. government's Idaho National Laboratories identified a vulnerability in the electric grid, demonstrating how much damage a cyber attack could inflict on a large diesel generator.

    Lani Kass, who retired in September as senior policy adviser to the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said America should take the possibility of a cyber attack seriously.

    She said: 'The going in hypothesis is always that it's just an incident or coincidence. And if every incident is seen in isolation, it's hard - if not impossible - to discern a pattern or connect the dots.

    'Failure to connect the dots led us to be surprised on 9/11.'

    Representative Jim Lanvevin, a Democrat from Rhode Island, said that the report of the attack highlighted the need to pass legislation to improve cyber security of the U.S. critical infrastructure.

    He said: 'The stakes are too high for us to fail, and our citizens will be the ones to suffer the consequences of our inaction.'

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    Default Re: Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Exp

    true enough... everyone thinks hackers can get to classified data at the Pentagon and dial, Cia etc... but they cant.

    but someone got into a water plant didn't THEY?
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    Default Re: Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Exp

    I did a similar experiment to Peterle some time ago with my employer.. Some of the sites that we get through our intranet are available from the internet and are stated as confidential. Now, no links work to get t stuff unless you login with ones common login for the system, which I did and was able to access a ton of stuff. Now, granted, I am not about to exploit that, but I did find it interesting.

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    Default Re: Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Exp

    http://video.today.msnbc.msn.com/today/49386549/

    ====================
    Money Matters: Defense Secretary warns of 'cyber Pearl Harbor'

    To view this site, you need to have Flash Player 9.0.115 or later installed. Click here to get the latest Flash player.



    October 12, 2012, 8:40 am



    (NECN) - Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is warning of the potential for a "cyber Pearl Harbor."

    He made the remark to a group of business executives Thursday night in New York City, warning that the threat of computer attacks from Iran has grown but that the Pentagon is ready to take action.

    ===========================================

    Cyber-Pearl Harbor warning issued by Leon Panetta

    By Andrea Reiher

    October 12, 2012 8:53 AM ET

    Follow @andrealeigh203 on Twitter | Google


    Defense Secretary Leon Panetta gave a speech Thursday (Oct. 11) to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York, where he warned about a possible "cyber-Pearl Harbor" in the U.S. because we have become increasingly vulnerable to foreign computer hackers who could take out the nation's power grid, transportation system or financial networks, reports the New York Times.

    "An aggressor nation or extremist group could use these kinds of cyber tools to gain control of critical switches. They could derail passenger trains, or even more dangerous, derail passenger trains loaded with lethal chemicals. They could contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country," says Panetta.

    Defense officials add that Panetta is not exaggerating, but that he is pushing for federal legislation that would require new computer security standards in private-sector infrastructure facilities, like power plants, water treatment plants and gas pipelines.

    In August, there was a cybersecurity bill that was blocked in Congress by a group of Republicans, led by Senator McCain, who said it would be too burdensome on corporations. But Panetta insists there is a very real threat.

    "Cyber-actors launching several attacks on our critical infrastructure at one time, in combination with a physical attack [would result in] a cyber-Pearl Harbor that would cause physical destruction and the loss of life, an attach that would paralyze and shock the nation and create a profound new sense of vulnerability," says Panetta.

    Panetta also insists that federal legislation is not targeting emails or information from private companies.

    "We're not interested in looking at e-mail, we're not interested in looking at information in computers, I'm not interested in violating rights or liberties of people. But if there is a code, if there's a worm that's being inserted, we need to know when that's happening," says Panetta. "I'm not sure they're going to volunteer if they don't feel that they're protected legally in terms of sharing information. So our hope is that ultimately we can get Congress to adopt that kind of legislation."

    ================================================== =====================

    Panetta Warns of Dire Threat of Cyberattack on U.S.

    By ELISABETH BUMILLER and THOM SHANKER

    Published: October 11, 2012 29 Comments

    Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta warned Thursday that the United States was facing the possibility of a “cyber-Pearl Harbor” and was increasingly vulnerable to foreign computer hackers who could dismantle the nation’s power grid, transportation system, financial networks and government.


    Francois Lenoir/Reuters

    Defense Secretary Leon Panetta seeks new standards to protect vital infrastructure.



    In a speech at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York, Mr. Panetta painted a dire picture of how such an attack on the United States might unfold. He said he was reacting to increasing aggressiveness and technological advances by the nation’s adversaries, which officials identified as China, Russia, Iran and militant groups.
    “An aggressor nation or extremist group could use these kinds of cyber tools to gain control of critical switches,” Mr. Panetta said. “They could derail passenger trains, or even more dangerous, derail passenger trains loaded with lethal chemicals. They could contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country.”
    Defense officials insisted that Mr. Panetta’s words were not hyperbole, and that he was responding to a recent wave of cyberattacks on large American financial institutions. He also cited an attack in August on the state oil company Saudi Aramco, which infected and made useless more than 30,000 computers.
    But Pentagon officials acknowledged that Mr. Panetta was also pushing for legislation on Capitol Hill. It would require new standards at critical private-sector infrastructure facilities — like power plants, water treatment facilities and gas pipelines — where a computer breach could cause significant casualties or economic damage.
    In August, a cybersecurity bill that had been one of the administration’s national security priorities was blocked by a group of Republicans, led by Senator John McCain of Arizona, who took the side of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and said it would be too burdensome for corporations.
    The most destructive possibilities, Mr. Panetta said, involve “cyber-actors launching several attacks on our critical infrastructure at one time, in combination with a physical attack.” He described the collective result as a “cyber-Pearl Harbor that would cause physical destruction and the loss of life, an attack that would paralyze and shock the nation and create a profound new sense of vulnerability.”
    Mr. Panetta also argued against the idea that new legislation would be costly for business. “The fact is that to fully provide the necessary protection in our democracy, cybersecurity must be passed by the Congress,” he told his audience, Business Executives for National Security. “Without it, we are and we will be vulnerable.”
    With the legislation stalled, Mr. Panetta said President Obama was weighing the option of issuing an executive order that would promote information sharing on cybersecurity between government and private industry. But Mr. Panetta made clear that he saw it as a stopgap measure and that private companies, which are typically reluctant to share internal information with the government, would cooperate fully only if required to by law.
    “We’re not interested in looking at e-mail, we’re not interested in looking at information in computers, I’m not interested in violating rights or liberties of people,” Mr. Panetta told editors and reporters at The New York Times earlier on Thursday. “But if there is a code, if there’s a worm that’s being inserted, we need to know when that’s happening.”
    He said that with an executive order making cooperation by the private sector only voluntary, “I’m not sure they’re going to volunteer if they don’t feel that they’re protected legally in terms of sharing information.”
    “So our hope is that ultimately we can get Congress to adopt that kind of legislation,” he added.
    Mr. Panetta’s comments, his most extensive to date on cyberwarfare, also sought to increase the level of public debate about the Defense Department’s growing capacity not only to defend but also to carry out attacks over computer networks. Even so, he carefully avoided using the words “offense” or “offensive” in the context of American cyberwarfare, instead defining the Pentagon’s capabilities as “action to defend the nation.”
    The United States has nonetheless engaged in its own cyberattacks against adversaries, although it has never publicly admitted it. From his first months in office, Mr. Obama ordered sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment plants, according to participants in the program. He decided to accelerate the attacks, which were begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games, even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010.
    In a part of the speech notable for carefully chosen words, Mr. Panetta warned that the United States “won’t succeed in preventing a cyberattack through improved defenses alone.”
    “If we detect an imminent threat of attack that will cause significant physical destruction in the United States or kill American citizens, we need to have the option to take action against those who would attack us, to defend this nation when directed by the president,” Mr. Panetta said. “For these kinds of scenarios, the department has developed the capability to conduct effective operations to counter threats to our national interests in cyberspace.”
    The comments indicated that the United States might redefine defense in cyberspace as requiring the capacity to reach forward over computer networks if an attack was detected or anticipated, and take pre-emptive action. These same offensive measures also could be used in a punishing retaliation for a first-strike cyberattack on an American target, senior officials said.
    Senior Pentagon officials declined to describe specifics of what offensive cyberwarfare abilities the Defense Department has fielded or is developing. And while Mr. Panetta avoided labeling them as “offensive,” other senior military and Pentagon officials have recently begun acknowledging their growing focus on these tools.
    The Defense Department is finalizing “rules of engagement” that would put the Pentagon’s cyberweapons into play only in case of an attack on American targets that rose to some still unspecified but significant levels. Short of that, the Pentagon shares intelligence and offers technical assistance to the F.B.I. and other agencies.

    Elisabeth Bumiller reported from New York, and Thom Shanker from Washington.
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    Default Re: Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Exp

    Panetta Sounds Alarm on Cyber-War Threat

    By Mark Thompson | @MarkThompson_DC | October 12, 2012 | +

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    dod photo / Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo


    Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warns of the threat of cyber attack Thursday night in New York City.




    Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued what he said is a “clarion call” Thursday for Americans to wake up to the growing threat posed by cyber war.


    “The whole point of this is that we simply don’t just sit back and wait for a goddamn crisis to happen,” Panetta told Time. “In this country we tend to do that, and that’s a concern.”


    Panetta came to the nation’s financial hub – New York City – to issue his battle cry. The city is the brightest bulls-eye on the American target for foes wishing to cripple the U.S. economy with computerized “worms” and “malware” that can infect computer networks via the Internet or insider sabotage.
    “It is the kind of capability that can basically take down a power grid, take down a water system, take down a transportation system, take down a financial system,” he told Time editors. “We are now in a world in which countries are developing the capability to engage in the kind of attacks that can virtually paralyze a country.”
    Aware his alarmn might be drowned out by Thursday night’s vice presidential debate, Panetta stopped by the magazine’s midtown offices Thursday afternoon to detail his concerns to a Time editorial board gathering.


    “Everybody knows what their iPhone can do, everybody knows what their computer can do, but I think there are too few people out there who understand the potential for the kind of attack that could cripple this country,” Panetta said. “The American people just have to be made aware of that.”


    Panetta cited a series of “disruptive” attacks against U.S. companies, and detailed the far more serious so-called “Shamoon” virus attack on the Saudi Arabian state oil company, Aramco. That August strike wiped out 30,000 of the companies computers. It created the image of a U.S. flag in flames on the infected computers and “it basically burned [the computers] up,” Panetta said. It marked, he said, a significant escalation in cyber warfare.
    In the hour-long session with the magazine’s editors, he also said:
    – “We are facing the threat of a new arena in warfare that could be every bit as destructive as 9/11 — the American people need to know that. We can’t hide this from the American people any more than we should have hidden the terrorism-attack threat from the American people.”
    – “The three potential adversaries out there that are developing the greatest capabilities are Russia, China, Iran.”
    – “Out of a scale of 10, we’re probably 8 [in cyber-war skills. But potential foes] are moving up on the scale – probably the others are about a 3, somewhere in that vicinity, but they’re beginning to move up.”
    He also said the U.S. military is stepping up its offensive cyber war capability:
    – “I think we have to develop the ability to conduct counter-operations against a country we know, or anticipate, that they’re going to launch that kind of attack. So we have to have both defensive and offensive capabilities.”
    Beyond merely shutting down enemy systems, the U.S. military is crafting a witch’s brew of stealth, manipulation and falsehoods designed to lure the enemy into believing he is in charge of his forces when, in fact, they have been secretly enlisted as allies of the U.S. military. The U.S. already has deployed a cyber-war offensive technology against Iran’s nuclear program, the New York Times has reported.


    But the U.S. is also a target. Panetta said “potential aggressors” are probing for weaknesses in the nation’s cyber defenses. “They’re beginning to exploit transportation systems, power systems, energy systems,” he said. “Our concern is that in doing that kind of exploration, they’re doing it for purposes of determining how could they attack.”
    The defense chief added that the Pentagon’s still-fuzzy rules of engagement for waging war in cyber space are being tightened, and will allow the Pentagon to defend other U.S. networks, in and out of government. But such technology isn’t cheap: major defense contractors see cyber defense as the next post-9/11 money pot – annual cyber spending is about $12 billion.


    In his speech Thursday night before Business Executives for National Security from the hangar deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, Panetta warned of cyber terrorists derailing U.S. passenger trains – as well as trains laden with lethal chemicals. He told Time’s editors that both Congress and U.S. businesses have been hesitant to pass legislation – and make the investments necessary – to defend the nation’s critical cyber infrastructure from attack. Part of the reason for speaking out, he said, is to generate public pressure on lawmakers to act.


    That’s one reason President Obama designated October as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Private-sector companies wonder if the government is exaggerating the threat. They seem willing to wait for an “electronic Pearl Harbor” to justify the investments they would need to make to protect their info-infrastructure. But Panetta and others fear that could be too late.

    “Government depends on these networks to defend this country,” Army General Keith Alexander, chief of U.S. Cyber Command, told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Oct. 4. “And it depends on the power grid to operate. So we have a vested interest in making sure that that works.”


    Panetta said his prior job – running the CIA – gave him a close-up look at the damage a cagey cyber-warrior could do to the U.S. “I can tell you from my old job, the level of expertise that I saw – and I don’t consider myself to be schooled in the art of knowing what the hell cyber systems [do] and how it all works –- I’m not close to being there — but I saw people that are extremely bright, extremely able,” he said


    “They can develop the kind of malware that has tremendous potential to bring down systems very effectively,” Panetta continued, making clear the U.S. is exploring offensive cyber weapons. ”Frankly, in my past capacity, having seen that potential — and now, as secretary of defense, I’m now beginning to see how that is beginning to get in to the arena of other countries that are saying: `Whoa, this has got some great potential.’”


    Read more: http://nation.time.com/2012/10/12/pa...#ixzz295lpCKd0
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    Default Re: Foreign Hackers Targeted U.S. Water Plant In Apparent Malicious Cyber Attack, Exp

    Funny these alarms are being sounded NOW...

    The original article up there was some time ago, over a year I think (I didn't check the dates).

    And we've been warning about this for nearly TEN YEARS NOW.
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