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The Cyberhacker Sitting Next to You

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William K.
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Re: Good story on a real problem
William K.   3/6/2014 1:32:02 PM
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Rob, actually, those older PLCs were about as imune as an automation device could be, since they spoke a different language, used a non-standard connection, and required a proprietary terminal to program them, or to change the program. Of course that made living with them a lot harder, but it did make them fairly secure.

The first hacking disaster that I came across was not even intentional: An IT person had connected a controls computer up to the plant eternet network so that they could monitor production testing results. The damage was done when windows stopped a test in mid-sequence to download  a new currency conversion utility. During the time that the test was halted the prototype part being tested melted and almost caught fire. Not the intended result of the connection, but it shows that windows can be our worst enemy.

And for the question of "Why would anyone attack a factory network?", the answer is quite simple. "Because it is there". It seems that many who attack and do damage are simply out to do damage, and they are far less likely to be caught than if they go out shooting people. So they damage things instead. Just simple mindless vandalism is all the motivation that some of them need. Then there is another class that simply hate bill gates and do things to make his company look bad. They are another problem.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Good story on a real problem
Ann R. Thryft   3/6/2014 2:20:58 PM
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That disbelief sounds like it's about the same from 2005 when I was talking to some experts on the subject for that WP (including high-level mil and ex-FBI guys). I find that kind of ostrich behavior hard to believe, yet it appears to still be widespread. The security pros told me it was due primarily to an unwillingness on the part of management to deal with the whole can of worms and the expenses involved. Of course, the pros would tell them just what they needed to do and point out that the costs would be much higher after a breach than to set up controls to prevent the breach in the first place.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Good story on a real problem
Rob Spiegel   3/6/2014 3:29:58 PM
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Thanks William K. Your answer to the question of why someone whoiuld want to crack into a plant network is the right answer.

William K.
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Re: Good story on a real problem
William K.   3/6/2014 9:12:56 PM
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I had a manager refuse to even consider a proposal for an addition to their fire-suppression system because the cost of the system would come from the profits and make him look bad. This was a week afrer that same system had poured water all over the new parts of the buildings computer network system, which the repairs and replacements cost a whole lot of money. The addition to prevent the damage from ever happening again would have cost much less than 1% of the cost of the damage repairs. But the money was "not an investment in profitability", and so he was not interested. That was a branch of Delphi. He was the manager who cussed at people. (a lot of folks will recognise him from that description).

Mydesign
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Re: Security Concerns
Mydesign   3/7/2014 4:56:49 AM
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1 saves
"Good point, Mydesign. This will be very interesting as it plays out. There's simply no clear answer. "

You are right Rob, it's like a police and thief game. Security professionals are chasing hackers.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Good story on a real problem
Ann R. Thryft   3/7/2014 3:52:53 PM
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William, that sounds like a Dilbert pointy-haired boss story, doesn't it?

William K.
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Re: Good story on a real problem
William K.   3/7/2014 9:24:01 PM
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Ann, yes it certainly does. And on more than a few occasions I have been ready to accuse Scott Adams of having cameras and bugs in my workplace. The similarity is awsome.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Good story on a real problem
Elizabeth M   3/10/2014 5:18:22 AM
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Yes, Rob, I would imagine background checks would help but it's kind of difficult and time consuming to do extensive background checks on every single person hired at a company, although I am sure companies with high security concerns do it. But even then you might miss something, or someone might just become disgruntled and try to sabatoge company or plant information. If I recall I wrote an article on this for another publication years ago, and the point of the article was that because you can't always control people so well you have to really secure your data and systems as best you can, and keep in mind that sometimes threats may come from inside so whatever you can do to secure systems from that, do so, by only giving people access to the systems or info they absolutely need for their jobs. But if someone with high security clearance wants to hack the system, you're right, I can't imagine how they can stop that.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Good story on a real problem
Ann R. Thryft   3/10/2014 12:27:24 PM
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William, I think the vast number of people who think Adams bases his strip on their particular place of work is more than awesome: it's downright scary.

William K.
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Re: Good story on a real problem
William K.   3/10/2014 10:34:53 PM
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Ann, the more disconcerting part of how accurate that stip appears is that it appears to be that accurate, meaning that so many of the upper management types fit the model of "the pointy-haired boss". Those folks who claim the sim8ularity can't possibly all be very far off, can they?

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