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By eweek  |  Posted 2002-09-10 Print this article Print

: Energy Utilities Ramp Up Security"> "Prior to 9/11, the background checks were pretty much done with your social security number, to see if youve had any trouble in the U.S.," he said. However, todays networks make those checks worldwide and much more quickly, said Lochbaum, in Washington. For example, fingerprint storing and checking is now done over a network instead of with ordinary mail, he said. In some cases, it helps to not use technology, Lochbaum said. The governments Nuclear Regulatory Council has removed much technical information from its Web site, "just to make sure were not aiding our enemies too much," he said.
In another example, todays power plants use modern networks for day-to-day business needs, but their complex control systems tend to be "a lot of 1960s technology. A lot of the safety systems are … not digital," he said.
Criminals cant break into whats not a digital connection. Help also comes from private companies, like Rainbow Mykotronx, owned by Rainbox Technologies Inc., in Irvine, Calif. About 75 percent of Mykrotronxs $75 million in annual revenue comes from the National Security Agency, but the division has been expanding into the commercial sector, including public utilities, said John Droge, vice president of business development and an 11-year NSA veteran. Droge disagrees with the obscurity-as-security notion. At a bank, "they dont take the money and put it in desk drawers and hide it, they lock it," he said. Similarly, criminals may not know a telecommunications networks passwords, but with "a coat hanger and a couple of parts from Radio Shack, you can start talking to a satellite," he said. That concept is real. Satellites have control links that are separate from their data links to deal with things like rocket angle, solar panels and battery power. Private satellite owners have only recently began adopting the governments 20-year-old policy of encrypting those control links. Otherwise, "if you could shut the gas off going into downtown Chicago in January, you could do some damage. You might have some people die," said Droge, in Torrance, Calif. "Bad things have definitely happened, there are a number of different smoking guns," he said. "A former employee for a water utility was upset that he was let go and he actually dumped raw sewage into clean systems from his computer. Hes in jail now," Droge said. "Eighty to 90 percent of the industry doesnt have the security mechanisms that are needed in todays world."


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