Hackers reportedly gained access to the control systems of a municipal water facility in Illinois in September 2011, destroying a pump by repeatedly turning it on and off until it broke.
News of the attack against such a SCADA (supervistory control and data acquisition) system raises fresh concerns that many infrastructure sites around the world are vulnerable to attack. While destroying a pump might not seem too dangerous, a similar attack on another facility – such as a nuclear power plant, or a traffic control station – could be far more deadly.
It took a couple of months for the hacking intrusion to be identified as the cause of the pump’s failure, according to The Register. The attack apparently exploited open source software vulnerabilities. One of the main problems is that such software has to have a back-door entry point for support services, yet in some cases those back-doors are fairly easy to break open.