Science Fiction-Style Sabotage A Fear In New Hacks: AP

On October 23rd, 2011, Jordan Robertson reported for the AP on how cyberattacks are quickly transitioning from the digital to the physical realm.  Using Stuxnet as an example, Robertson highlighted how the ability to hack computer systems and damage physical property is not exclusively in the possession of nation-states; worms similar to Stuxnet can be replicated by hackers with little money, time, or specialized skill.  This threat again highlights the danger that critical infrastructure like power plants and water systems face from determined hackers; the US Department of Homeland Security reveled that it has already responded to triple the number of computer attacks on critical infrastructure as compared to last year.   

Hackers were previously only able to dream about controlling the physical realm.  However, new findings as to how to take remote control of industrial "controller" boxes, the nerve centers for heavy machinery, has provided that physical control.   Controller boxes take computer commands and send instructions to physical machinery, such as regulating how fast a conveyor belt moves.  These devices are manufactured to last for decades, so there is little to no incentive to replace or update them.  It is the manipulation of these controller boxes that puts critical infrastructure at risk.  Moreover, the threat isn't limited to power plants.  The article points out how a hacker could manipulate a controller box to open cell doors, tamper with video feeds, and open the facility doors at prisons.  

In order to combat this threat, the article notes that organizations have to bridge cultural divides between physical and computer security.  In essence, the days of separating the two are coming to an end.  Organizations should also isolate critical control systems from the Internet to prevent such attacks.  Whatever the case, organizations are currently unprepared:  it took security researcher Dillon Beresford just two months and $20,000 in equipment to take remote control of electronic controllers commonly used by US companies.  Joe Weiss, an industrial control systems expert, noted that "What all this is saying is you don't have to be a nation-state to do this stuff. That's very scary."

The source article can be found here.

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. She is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography

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