Re: Great Blackout of 2003 Caused by MSBlast Computer Worm?

From: Michael Scheidell (
Date: 08/28/03

Date: Thu, 28 Aug 2003 14:39:49 -0400

The Factory, Control and SCADA systems providers have not shown much
willingness to take any responsibility for the use (or misuse) of their
systems, having washed their hands of the security and stability functions
once the system is declared 'on line', saying that the security of their
systems in now in the hands of the end-user.

This attitude among major manufactures of FA and SCADA systems has in the
past lead to break downs ("see Ohio Power plant shut down by slammer worm" ) and is similar to the attitude
Phone companies and PBX vendors had in the early '80s (even suing their
clients for unpaid long distance changes racked up by phone 'hackers')
To them it did not matter that they left default or hackable pin codes or
passwords on clients PBX's, nor warned them to change these default (and
documented passwords).

I have contacts in the FA/SCADA field, having run the worlds largest
distributor of QNX (an RTOS used by FA/SCADA systems) and having been the
Director of Business Development for VenturCom (they have a product called
'RTX' which is an RTOS kernel for Windows, and they 'invented' embedded NT)
as well as having worked in the telcom field in the early 80's.
During my years in both companies I have seen how and what Windows can be
used for (and what its forced to do) and I can tell you by experience that
while DCOM on NT may not be used directly for real time control functions,
it is in fact used to do supervisory and monitoring ('traffic cop') type

Originally, FA and SCADA systems ran on proprietary backbones like the
Allen-Bradley links, 4 wire control and signaling systems. With the advent
of 10/100 and 1GB switched networking, many control systems are now using
ethernet for control. Its cheaper to install and maintain and comes with it
the promise of direct backoffice and manufacturing systems integration.
However, with the combination of COTS (commercial off the Shelf) systems
like Windows, and transports like ethernet, many once isolated FA systems
are now combined, integrated, reachable (and hackable) via administrative
networks that themselves have full internet access.

Should the installers and manufacturers of these systems make sure they are
compatible with current service packs and patches? Should they warn their
clients that under no circumstances should these systems ever be linked,
cross linked, even thorough a firewall to the corporate network?
What about their promise of integration? integrated back office and
manufacturing functions?
How will they do that without direct links?
Should the purchaser of these systems be required, or even permitted to
upgrade an patch these systems?
Who is responsible for damages if (and when) these unprotected systems get
If a SCADA manufacturing company installs a (currently patched, reasonable
secure) system in a health care or medical manufacturing company, and
integrated back office functions include patient data, who is going to pay
the HIPAA fines _WHEN_ that system gets hacked by a multi-mode worm?

Once that gets in via email on the administrative side, or is brought in via
the vendor themselves during installation and testing functions?

What do you think of this response by a major manufacturer of SCADA systems?
Is it up to the end customer to keep these systems isolated? And if so,
should these companies stop pushing the ease of integration and integrated
back office functions and just admit that there can be no connectivity
between your internet accessible administrative network and the critical
manufacturing system? And how reasonable is that in light of recent
revelations of failures at that above mentioned Ohio power plant?

" But it is impossible for us to keep our SCADA systems secure. Once we get
a version out there, and it is installed performing some function like power
plant automation, customers don't mess with it. They only use it. It will
become vulnerable over time due to stagnant technology. Our focus, and your
focus, needs to be on secure access to it. Not making the product itself
bullet proof.
Interesting questions about the liability. Contracts would need to be
structured to highlight Best Efforts on security, not perfection.
The bottom line is that a service provider will give you more security
because they live it and it is their focus."

The only answer is for both vendor and client to take joint responsibility.

The Power control system vendors need to inform their clients of the
potential problems, and work to make sure their systems leave the plant
secure and continue to test their systems for known and unknown

The clients need to take the knowledge and warnings from today's headlines
and understand that they too have a responsibility to protect installed
systems.. and continue to work with security professionals as an ongoing

Everyone needs to understand that security is a process, which is what we
say in the information security profession as both a warning and a mantra.

Without both education and a willingness to take responsibility, greed will
do as much damage than terrorists.

Michael Scheidell, CEO
SECNAP Network Security
Sales: 866-SECNAPNET / (1-866-732-6276)
Main: 561-368-9561 /

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