Terminator V: Utilities Under Fire Without Least Privilege

BeyondTrust, October 14th, 2011

Remember the premise of Terminator and about another 100 or so Hollywood movies that have computers taking over the world? The first step in this conquest is always that we rely heavily on machines being connected to the worldwide web to make our life easier. This becomes problematic when said equipment is managing critical infrastructure like say electricity, water, communications, etc. Wait isn’t that what we’ve now done?

I guess we can take solace in knowing that it is a far cry from a Hollywood picture to an actual reality of someone using said connections to utilities for purposes other than originally planned… or can we?

A recent article published in Sci-TechToday.com written by Douglas Birch and titled “Cyberattackes on Utilities, Industries Rise” states that “Acting DHS Deputy Undersecretary Greg Schaffer warns that U.S. utilities and industries face a rising number of cyber break-ins as industrial machinery is wired to the Net. According to the DHS, Control System Security Program cyber experts based at the Idaho National Laboratory responded to 116 requests for assistance in 2010, and 342 this year.” The article goes on to report “We are connecting equipment that has never been connected before to these global networks,” Schaffer said. Disgruntled employees, hackers and perhaps foreign governments “are knocking on the doors of these systems, and there have been intrusions.”

Ultimately any IT infrastructure without some level of least privilege solution to mitigate the potential harm of intentional, accidental or indirect harm will be at risk.