Home > Cyber Intelligence & Terrorism Research, USA > Broken water pump in Illinois caused by cyber-attack from Russia (NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Broken water pump in Illinois caused by cyber-attack from Russia (NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

A broken water pump in a rural town near Springfield, Illinois could be the result of the first cyber attack on a public utility in the U.S., top security expert Joe Weiss reported on his blog.

Weiss posted a Nov. 8 report from the The Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center entitled “Public Water District Cyber Intrusion,” that suggests the “burn out of a water pump” could have been a deliberate, full scale security breach into the utility’s computer system from a computer in Russia.

The broken pump was quickly fixed and did not result in any water supply issues, but the incident has led to a deeper investigation, CNN reports.

The report says water district workers noted “glitches” in the system for nearly two months, and on Nov. 8 an employee noticed problems with the control systems.

“An information technology services and computer repair company checked the system logs and determined the computer had been hacked into from a computer located in Russia,” Weiss said on his blog.

Although cyber-attacks on a utility’s control systems had previously been unknown in the U.S., last week’s alleged attack sounded an alarm to those concerned about vulnerability of America’s civil infrastructures to terrorism.

Experts said the reported water-pump attack highlights the risk that hackers can infiltrate the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems that control critical utilities from railroads and dams to chemical plants and nuclear reactors.

“Many (SCADA systems) are old and vulnerable,” said cyber policy expert Lani Kass. “There are no financial incentives for the utility owners to replace and secure these systems and the costs would be high.”

Disputing Weiss’ claims that the water-pump incident was a deliberate attack, government officials have not tied the incident to terrorism, and the Department of Homeland Security is downplaying any dangers.

“At this time there is no credible corroborated data that indicates a risk to critical infrastructure entities or a threat to public safety,” DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard said in a statement.

“This is just one of many events that occur almost on a weekly basis,” said Sean McGurk, former director of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. “While it may be nice to speculate that it was caused by a nation-state or actor, it may be the unintended consequence of maintenance,” he told CNN.

Meanwhile, the incident coincides with expansion of a project in the Pentagon that contracts cyber-experts to “hack” into computer systems to pinpoint security weaknesses in U.S. defense programs.

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