US utility’s control systems hit by advanced cyber attack – DHS

by The Daily Lede

US utility’s control systems hit by advanced cyber attack – DHS

An advanced group of hackers recently attacked a US public utility, compromising its control system network without affecting the utility’s operations, according to the US Department of Homeland Security.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not name the utility in a report released this week by the agency’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT).

“While unauthorized access was identified, ICS-CERT was able to work with the affected entity to put in place mitigation strategies and ensure the security of their control systems before there was any impact to operations,” a DHS official told Reuters.

The agency report said that investigators had determined the utility was likely a victim of previous attacks, though it did not elaborate.

Cyber-attacks of this kind are rarely disclosed by ICS-CERT, which is often secretive about its investigations in order to encourage businesses to offer information to the government, according to Reuters. In addition, companies are often hesitant to share information with the public should the attacks result in negative publicity.

DHS said the hacking group may have launched the latest attack via an internet portal that allowed workers to access the utility’s control systems. DHS added that the utility’s system employed a simple password mechanism that could have been compromised by “brute forcing,” when hackers digitally force their way into a system using a variety of password combinations.

In the report, DHS also described another hack of a control system server connected to “a mechanical device.” DHS offered few details about the case, except that the attacker had access over an extended period, yet no attempts were made to manipulate the system.