The past week's most prominent IT security news included more details on attacks against SCADA systems at water utilities, weak passwords and holiday shopping scams.
public reports on Nov. 18 of a network breach at a Springfield, Ill., water
utility were "downplayed" by the Department of Homeland Security, an
unknown hacker posted screenshots from a South Houston, Texas, water utility to
illustrate the ease in which someone can compromise the industrial control
systems in these facilities.
hacker, using the pseudonym Pr0f, claimed the supervisory control and data
acquisition (SCADA) system at the water utility was protected by a
initial report from the Illinois State Terrorism and Intelligence Center that
mentioned the attack on the Springfield breach and the subsequent damage to the
water pump claimed the attack may have exploited vulnerabilities in the
phpMyAdmin, a popular Web-based database administration tool. The tool has been
criticized by several security experts as being ridden with too many bugs to justify
running it on critical infrastructure.
and the FBI continued to deny the veracity of the incident and stated on
Wednesday that the report was "intended to be initial raw reporting and
not conclusive in nature." The Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency
Response Team (ICS-CERT) said after studying the log files obtained from the
state agency that it was unable to "validate" the claims. The
investigation is still ongoing to discover why the pump failed, according to
ICS-CERT. The SCADA vendor that may have been hacked was a "small,
regional systems integrator," ICS-CERT said.
DHS statement released recently appears to conflict with the STIC report and
its positive statements that an event had occurred. This begs the question why
two government agencies disagree over whether a cyber event that damaged
equipment had occurred at a water utility," wrote
, an industrial control system security expert who publicized the
security was also prominent, as a pair of reports from Juniper Networks and
McAfee highlighted the
explosive growth rate of Android malware
since July to November.
Researchers' warnings about rapidly evolving Android malware incensed Chris
DiBona, an open-source program manager at Google and a former Slashdot editor,
who ranted on social networking site Google+ that security companies are
"likely as not to be charlatans and scammers" intent on scaring
consumers into buying mobile protection.
Ducklin, head of technology of the Asia Pacific group at Sophos, pointed out
that while there are safeguards built into Android, "bad things can and
have happened on mobile devices, though the probability of you being affected
is currently small, and your time exposed to danger might be short."
list from SplashData on Nov. 21 highlighted the fact that despite frequent
warnings about selecting strong and complex passwords, a majority of the
Internet users are still relying on weak passwords to protect their accounts
list compiled data that had been leaked by various attackers in targeting
various targets in
2011 and identified 25 most frequently used passwords
, which included gems
such as 12345, trustno1, 11111, qwerty, password and abc123.
experts warned that shoppers and retailers aren't the only ones focusing on
Black Friday and the start of the traditional holiday shopping season; cyber-criminals
are, too. While many retailers braced themselves for
potential distributed denial-of-service attacks
that may occur over the
next few weeks, shoppers were bombarded with reminders to update their Web
browsers, security software and operating system with the latest versions to
prevent malware from compromising their systems.
scams masquerading as legitimate deals
and phony coupons as well as the
dangers of shopping with mobile devices. Users were cautioned to be careful of
what mobile apps they downloaded and were reminded to use the wireless
carriers' 3G networks to shop online or compare prices instead of jumping on a
public, and potentially unsafe, hotspot.